Archivos de Diario para mayo 2021

17 de mayo de 2021

Herping Away the Pandemic: The 2021 Herping Season

Field herping, or the act of searching for reptiles and amphibians in the wild, has been one of my favorite outdoor activities every since my first survey with the Southwestern Herpetologist Society. Reptiles and amphibians are just such beautiful animals and the intimate knowledge of their life histories that is required to find many of them makes this process so much more rewarding than other forms of wildlife watching. In 2019, I decided to conduct a personal field project all on my own while working on my undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara in order to learn how to find wild reptiles and amphibians in Santa Barbara and what conditions were most suitable for different species. The 2019 and early 2020 seasons were very productive and taught me a lot about field herping and herp biology. Unfortunately, the middle of 2020 season was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. I was forced to leave campus and move back in with my parents. Although I was able to make a few trips back out to Santa Barbara to collect data that season, I was mostly restricted to the Western Los Angeles County area where I live. This forced me to broaden the scope of my project from a focus on Santa Barbara to Coastal Southern California more generally. This transition also resulted in me finding a bunch of new sites to look for herps, although the herping season had ended before I found most of them. As a result, I prepared and waited for the 2021 season to arrive.

Now, as the 2021 season draws to a close, I can say that the wait was worth it. Both as part of my study and just for fun, I did more herping and saw more herps this year than I have ever done in one season. The weather was not optimal this year, with comparatively little rain and extreme temperatures for Spring, and yet I still saw more than ever before. What rain did fall was enough for chorus frogs and slender salamanders to be found in oak woodlands. I was also able to find my first Monterey Ensatinas, a species that is very spotty in its distribution in Southern California. Thanks to a few sites in particular, I was able to find dozens of gophersnakes and rattlesnakes, including some very unusually patterned and colored individuals. Unfortunately, several of my encounters with rattlesnakes this season were close calls, so I will be meditating on those experiences in preparation for future expeditions. I also found several nightsnakes this year, a species that I have not seen many of. Skinks and alligator lizards were found in great numbers as usual, but I was also able to find them in new places. Despite the dry weather, I found a decent number of Ringneck Snakes this season, including some of the most beautiful ones I have ever seen. This season was also my personal record for the most kingsnakes in one season, with three of them being striped-phase kingsnakes that I found in San Diego County. Additionally, I spent a decent amount of time walking creeks this season and have become much more experienced in looking for Pacific Chorus Frogs, California Tree Frogs, Two-striped Gartersnakes, and California Newts in such habitats. Other amazing finds for this season included a black-headed snake, a legless lizard, a striped racer, a whiptail feeding on a jerusalem cricket, my first arboreal salamander, and a rattlesnake feeding on a pocket mouse.

With the exception of finding Western Toads, I saw every species I wanted to see this season and then some. It was an amazing experience and I will not forget it, as it is probably the only season of Coastal California Herping that I will ever be able to experience as fully. I learned so much from all my encounters and I can't wait to reflect back on these experiences again when I finalize my project in 2022.

Anotado en 17 de mayo de 2021 a las 05:49 PM por tothemax tothemax | 38 observaciones | 5 comentarios | Deja un comentario