texas

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We woke up at 7 to leave Vicki’s by 8AM, stopped at Chic-fil-A for a quick breakfast, and headed to meet Jason, Chris, and Caroline in west Texas.

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Breakfast

Along the way we stopped at Buc-ee’s (the famous gas station/store) for a quick break and then in San Antonio to walk along the River Walk and have lunch.

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Fueling up at Buc-ee’s

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River Walk in San Antonio

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There were some neat, huge trees along the river in San Antonio

 

When we finally met up with the other group at a Pizza Hut in Alpine, we were pleased to find Ron and Eric there as well.

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Meeting up with Chris, Caroline, Jason, Ron, and Eric in Alpine, TX

 

After a quick pizza dinner, some supply shopping, and cleaning/reorganizing the vehicles, we split up into three cars: one car went to Big Bend for sight seeing and hiking, and the other two cars went to road cruise for snakes (we were particularly keen on finding samples of Mojave Rattlesnakes).

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Andrew with an amazing save after nearly toppling the water display at the grocery store

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Jason and Andrew cleaning windshields in preparation for a night of cruising

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A giant “A” on the hillside, for Alpine

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Andrew getting the windshield nice and clean

 

It didn’t take long before the state troopers and border patrol had stopped to see what we were doing before letting us continue our search for science. The first snake we came across was a chunky long-nose (Rhinocheilus lecontei) crossing the street around midnight.

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The first snake of the trip, a large Long-nosed Snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei)

We spent 7 hours cruising and walking road cuts, and found a total of 15 snakes representing 10 species.  It took most of the night, but we finally found 1 Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus) at 3:30AM. By 4:30 we had tired out and arrived at Sky’s (thanks for letting us crash there!) house to sleep.

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A Common Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula)

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A Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer)

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DOR Common Kingsnake (L. getula)

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DOR Trans-Pecos Rat Snake (Bogertophis subocularis)

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Andrew holding the largest night snake (Hypsiglena torquata) that we’ve ever seen to highlight it’s length.

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Another shot of the same night snake. Look at how big it is!

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Andrew holding a Great Plains Rat Snake (Pantherophis emoryi)

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A closer photo of the same Great Plains Rat Snake

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DOR Glossy Snake (Arizona elegans)

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DOR Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)

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Another Great Plains Rat Snake (P. emoryi)

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A small Long-nosed Snake (R. lecontei)

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DOR Trans-Pecos Rat Snake (B. subocularis)

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Our first Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus) of the trip, our target species

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Last snake of the night, a DOR Black-tailed Rattlesnake (Crotalus ornatus). A bit of a downer to end the night at 4AM with a DOR

A group of four graduate students (Andrew, Matt, Alexa, and Katie) from UCF and I started our drive to Sanderson, TX for the Snake Days conference. We spent the whole day driving to arrive in Houston at 9pm to stay with Vicki (a recent UCF biology graduate) for the night. It was a largely uneventful drive, but it got us one day closer to Snake Days!

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Jason and I woke up early today to go to the San Angelo State Park for some birding.  We saw over 30 species of bird and a number of other exciting critters, including:

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Golden Fronted Woodpecker (in focus), a Brown Headed Cowbird (foreground, center), and White Winged Doves (foreground, bottom right).

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Northern Cardinal

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House Finch

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Cottontail Rabbit and White Winged Doves

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A male Painted Bunting

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Thirteen-Lined Ground Squirrel

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My favorite bird of the day, a Roadrunner!

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A male Scissors Tailed Flycatcher

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Some cool butterflies – can anyone tell me what species they are? Seen near a pond in San Angelo State Park.

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I was excited to see these plants all around. Guess what species this is (bonus points if you can tell me the family, as well).

Feel free to dispute any of my identifications, I don’t know most Texas fauna very well.  After birding, Jason took me by his alma mater, Angelo State University, where I got to see statues of their mascots (Ram, for the guys, and Rambelle, for the ladies).  I was surprised to learn that the “cojones” of the Ram, though large and impressive, have undergone two size reductions over the years.

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Quite the rack he has there.

We got lunch at a great Mexican place called Fernandez, which had an interesting warning sign posted in the men’s bathroom… Jason and I caught a bunch of Texas Blind Snakes (Leptotyphlops dulcis) and several Mediterranean Geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus) under a log in his old yard.  Then we took a 3-hour drive to Seminole to stay with his parents for the night.  Along the way we discovered a hitch-hiking mantis on our dash and saw a bunch of windmills, which I thought were pretty cool.  So far we have caught a Six-Lined Racerunner (Aspidocelis sexlineatus) at his parents’ house.  Two days, two snake species and we’re not even trying yet.  Not a bad start to the trip.