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Tucson Az & The Sky Islands (Chiricahua)

Discussion in 'Field Trips (Natural Habitats)' started by UrbanJungles, Jan 9, 2008.

  1. UrbanJungles

    UrbanJungles Arachnoprince

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    Just another fun trip I thought I'd share.
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    A couple of years ago I visited this part of the country for the first time and I was hooked, I try to go back every single year to experience the unbelievable wildlife Arizona has to offer.

    Our trip started out in the deserts of Tucson where I met up with some friends who are currently doing some western diamondback research in the Sonoran.

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    Here they are with the first specimen of the evening, a nice male C. atrox. Here you can see my friend Emily injecting a harmless dye into the snake's rattles. this is how researchers mark them to ID individuals. Each snake has it's own unique color combination according to sex.

    Here you can see one example...
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    But there were plenty of other desert residents to play with while all the "work" was going on...some folks I uncovered.

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    Aphenopelma sp.

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    H. arizonensis

    Even some of the hard to find buggers were out playing that night...

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    This colorful beauty brought out the beast in all of us. That's me with the sexy boots on...

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    We were lucky enough to have some friends with us from the Australia zoo with us that night and they freaked over one of our few elapids. I had to elbow my way in for a shot!

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    My first tiger rattler!

    Then, in the dark I could feel a set of eyes watching me from a protected spot...I turned to find my admirer...is that blood!
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    Whew...luckily the killer desert tortoises are busy with all that prickly pear fruit!

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    The study site in Tucson was really fun but now it's time to head out for the mountains. On the drive over I found myself jumping out of a moving vehicle once again in order to meet up close and personal...

    First snake I found on the highway on our way to the mountains...a beautiful Mojave rattler! Another first!
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    The next day I took this guy out to take some pictures and really appreciate the colors in the daylight...

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    Other road warriors found that night...

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    Great Plains Toads

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    Sonoran Toads

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    SpadeFoot Toads

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    Colorado River Toad (Released un-licked)

    This concludes the Sonoran region of our trip...I have some more invert pics but I'll have to dig them up. The next part of our trip took us to the Chiricahua mountains in SE AZ. These is one of the group of habitats known as the "Sky Islands" because of the amount of rich endemic fauna that exists no where else. One of my favorite places in the whole world!

    More pics to come...
     
  2. tarcan

    tarcan Arachnoking Old Timer

    Very nice pictures!

    Thanks for sharing

    Martin
     
  3. tin man

    tin man Arachnobaron Old Timer

    those are really awsome pics, that makes me really want to go there
     
  4. ChrisNCT

    ChrisNCT ChrisinTennessee Arachnosupporter

    Nice pics! I like seeing members pics of places that they've traveled to for local wildlife.
     
  5. hamfoto

    hamfoto Arachnoangel Old Timer

    Very nice! The Chiricahuans are VERY special ecosystems...

    Chris
     
  6. WOW!

    Great pics! These venomous lizards are great indeed!
    Any other are too! Beautiful!
    Thanks for sharing!
     
  7. UrbanJungles

    UrbanJungles Arachnoprince

    Part II - The Chiricahua Mountains

    So we were soon at our destination, one of the isolated mountain ranges often referred to as a unique ecosystem called the Sky Islands.

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    One of those ranges is the Chiricahuas, rising almost 6,000 feet higher than the surrounding desert and semi-arid grasslands. For every increase of 1,000 feet, the average temperature drops about four degrees and annual rainfall increases about four inches. Thanks to the reduction in heat and addition in moisture the mountains are covered in pine forests laced with permanent streams, supporting a variety of high-elevation herps and inverts that are active on the surface throughout the summer.

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    Robber Flies Mating

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    Cicindela sp.

    Of course I felt lucky just to be able to observe some of the native wildlife and spend some time at this magical place so anything we found was a bonus. Deep in my heart I was hoping to find one species of snake that has a colorform that is endemic to this specific region. The bright yellow colorform of the Black Tailed Rattlesnake is something I had seen in a few pictures but never had the pleasure of seeing in real life. Of course, the mountains didn't disappoint...in a big way too!

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    Success!

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    Success, big time! Here's what I found on the first night.

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    I was digging around looking for Vinegaroons which are plentiful in the area. As I dug in the leaf litter at the base of a large boulder I paused when I heard a distinct buzzing sound. Normally I'd have thought it to be a nearby insect but as a zookeeper familiar with alot of rattlers I was able to recognize the distinct buzz of a rock rattler...

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    The next day I found a newborn on the ground as I used my hands to hoist myself up a steep mountain slope...

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    I often found myself almost stupidly lucky, stumbling across some of the hard to find dwarf rattlers endemic to the ranges...such as this twin-spotted rattlesnake that buzzed away when I tossed a rock down a slope that landed nearby and managed to agitate him into buzzing. Upon examining him I could see a shed was coming so he wasn't thrilled in the slightest to see me...

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    Of course there were plenty of lizards to be found...

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    Bunch Grass Lizards

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    Madrean Alligator Lizard

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    Yarrow's Spiny Lizard

    And...more snakes.

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    Unique Longnose snake- very reduced red

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    Desert kingsnake

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    Colorful Sonoran Gopher Snake

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    Juvenile Green Ratsnake

    Ahhhh....what an Amazing place.
    Before saying goodbye my buddy and I decided to drive out first light and see what we could find at the foot of the Mountains where the region transitions back into a hotter and more arid scrub.

    This guy was my official send off party...

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    A beautiful desert horned lizard who was out sunning himself on the road off the mountain.

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    When I grabbed this guy up for some closeups, I looked over to my buddy and mentioned how docile all of the horned lizards we've come upon were. None had used their nasty self-defense mechanism which consists of shooting a spray of blood from the corner of their eyes.

    As I finished my sentenced I noticed something peculiar about the lizard...what the!!??

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    DAMN!!! I spoke too soon!
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    But it was a memorable send-off for sure.
    Hope everyone enjoys...it's my pleasure to share this life experience.
     
  8. hamfoto

    hamfoto Arachnoangel Old Timer

    Awesome...just awesome!

    and Danny, I'll be there this summer for a little bit doing some research...

    Chris
     
  9. GQ.

    GQ. Arachnodemon Old Timer

    Those are very impressive photos. I'm now trying to work a Tucson trip into the 2008 vacation plans. Thank you for sharing the excellent photos.
     
  10. GoTerps

    GoTerps Arachnoking Old Timer

    Great photos! Thanks for sharing!

    The Chiricahuas are so interesting on many levels.

    Eric
     
  11. Justyn

    Justyn Arachnosquire Old Timer

    AZ is one of my favorite herping areas. A huge amount of diverse wildlife.
     
  12. UrbanJungles

    UrbanJungles Arachnoprince

    I've been from Az to Africa & Australia and it still ranks as one of my favorite places on earth. We are lucky to have such an amazing place within our borders...get out there!

    It's my pleasure to share with you guys! Enjoy!

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