Puerco Mountains Report #8
Roger Repp's Puerco Mountains Report
(From the 365 Dumbest Things Ever Said Calendar):
"I had to take a poo in the woods, all hunched over like a wild animal. It was awesome." Drew Barrymore
Moving on to something completely different:
Some of you will remember Annamarie Saenger from my pre-blog reports. For those of you following the Puerco Mountain blog, let me make the introduction: back in the early Y2K days, Annamarie, her sister Erika, and their mutual parents, Tricia and Walt, had a Texas horned lizard study going on down Wilcox way. The Saenger family decided at some point that Arizona had WAY too many herps to suit them, and have instead opted to perish whilst malingering about in a New Hampshire herpless purgatory.
I'm happy to report that Annamarie no longer sports her dog collar, and has refrained from dying her hair blue of late. The reason that I know this is because she came to visit us on 25 April, and I would notice such things as that.
We started her visit by throwing down a couple shots, and taking separate naps. The shot part of the preceding sentence evoked a verbal drubbing from my better half. There is nothing unusual about this. I'm a married man. I consider my day lost if I don't catch hell about something.
Upon awaking from my nap, I used some Elmer's glue to re-assemble the missing pieces of my backside, and off we went to the plot to do some "Meatball Tracking."
For those unfamiliar with the art of meatball tracking, one dials in the desired frequency of the animal one wishes to radio track. One next tracks the animal in question to its moorings. Once it's in sight, you "oooo" and "aaahhh" for a few seconds, and then walk away--dropping any notion of taking data. One then dials the next one in, and off one goes to perform similar misdeeds.
Are the scientists amongst us ok with these types of behaviors?
And so, armed with receiver, antenna, and cameras, off AnnieM and I clambered about steep rock outcrops. We tracked down two tiger rattlesnakes, only one of which was visible, and also saw both blacktail rattlesnakes we had dialed in.
As we were being far too successful with the telemetry gear, we eventually decided to road cruise. This resulted in NOTHING, and thus endeth that day.
We got up the next morning, which is well that we did, for there would be nothing more to report if we hadn't. We planned to meet Steve Ressel, a resident of yet another New England purgatory, (AKA Maine). We made arrangements to meet Steve out in the middle of nowhere by 0800.
This left us two hours to hit the dumps. One of AnnieM's requests was that we find a sandsnake. These can be fairly common at some times of the year--but late April ain't it! Nevertheless, if AnnieM wanted a sandsnake, we would at least have fun trying.
I would dearly love to tell you all everything about the glorious dumps we assailed. There was actually a time when I would have. But over time, I have learned that if you want to be in the dumps over dumps, just tell one wrong damn person about them. Every time I have identified my dumps, people have raided them--hard to believe, but there it is. Hence, I ain't telling ANY of you where we went this morning.
We found the usual banded geckos and sideblotch lizards, but then came the first surprise of the day. AnnieM and I hefted a 1/2" sheet of 4 x 8 plywood, and spied a DANDY desert iguana underneath. Knowing the wiles of our quarry, AnnieM was on it like scum on a pond. As it turned out, she could have picked it off with her elbows. The air temp was about 55 degrees F, and the body temp of our Dipsosaurus was probably less than that.
The poor thing was so cold that its toes curled when we put it on the ground. It was standing on its knuckles for the photo session. When it finally decided to run, it more resembled a drunk daddy-long-legs than it did a fleet-footed lizard. It was reeling and staggering as it swept its arms and legs in the swimming motion that normally results in blazing bipedal speed. This was good for a coupe yuks. What fun is life if one can't make fun of a nearly frozen Dipso?
We eventually met up with Steve, you know, the guy from Purgatory, AKA Maine. Being the gallant men of chivalry that we are, we allowed AnnieM to ride in the back of my pickup truck. We then drove ten miles of rugged back roads to April Canyon. As mentioned in Puerco Mountain Reports #5, we got three Gila monsters in this canyon on 19 April. While enroute today, the lizards began what was to be an all day record extravaganza. By the time the last dog was hung on this day, we found exactly 300 lizards. This is the most I've ever seen in my 27 years of living in Tucson.
April Canyon did not yield any monsters on this day. As mentioned, we just saw bunches and bunches of lizards. Things were so good that the hopes of seeing chuckwallas lured us away to the 96 Hills area.
While on the way to this fabulously remote range, a large female regal horned lizard kept us entertained for no short time duration. I missed the best part of that action by taking data. By now it was MUCH warmer than 55 F. In fact, the ground temp was also 55--centigrade! (~131 F). Our horned lizard eventually started to gape, and AnnieM got a GREAT shot of this. It was so great that I can't share it with you-the Horned Lizard Conservation Society wants that privilege. You'll have to settle for a Roger Repp shot.
I have a honey hole for chuckwallas in the 96 Hills. It is an exfoliated granite boulder field that is very close to the road. The boulders can be anywhere from the size of a wheelbarrow to massive things the size of barns. The granite has many splits, and the chuckwallas hang in the rock crevices. Annamarie had forgotten to bring a mirror on this trip, which evoked a mild rebuking from me. I believe the words I mentioned went something like:
"You've been around enough know the drill. Next time, bring a mirror.
This ain't amateur hour."
Steve got a buzz out of the amateur hour comment, but when AnnieM was the only one to eventually find a chuckwalla, that came back to get me.
"Amateur hour indeed," sayeth the tundra dweller.
Once finished with the chuckwalla spot, it became decision o'clock.
AnnieM and I went back out to the plot. We tracked three atrox, two of which were visible. As I loomed over our friend DoubleNickels, I decided it was time for a drink of water.
As I unscrewed the cap, my hands got a little shaky. I accidentally spilled water all over the poor atrox. He greedily tightened up his coils to capture it, and drank lustily off his flanks. This AnnieM was able to get video on, so we also got clumsy with the next atrox, Katie. She also drank deeply of all that was offered.
It would be a difficult process for all the snake haters of the world to understand people who will take the time to give a thirsty rattlesnake a drink--eh?
The long way home yielded nothing until we were less than a mile from the Repp mansion. Here we found and quickly released a ~600mm long longnose snake. And thus ended a fine day to be in the field.
Have a good weekend everybody! roger