All text copyright  Eitan Grunwald.  All photographs copyright  Eitan or Ron Grunwald  except photographs by others are copyright per photo credits.  All rights reserved.  Terms
ARIZONA
August 2003
 3 of 3
ARIZONA
August 2003
 3 of 3
                        
Twin-spotted Rattlesnake Crotalus pricei
© Danny Mendez
Before joining the group for a hike, Danny and I decide to do some early-morning cruising.  We see a bobcat being mobbed by crows, but not much in the way of herps, except for a short stretch where something flat and round is squatting by the side of the road.   Danny is particularly excited, this being his first horned lizard in the wild.  He comments how cool it would be to see one squirt blood from its eyes, the somewhat grotesque defense the lizard uses to startle predators when the lizard fails to escape or avoid detection.  Well, Danny gets his wish.  He’s holding the little lizard when suddenly he feels something liquid on his face and arms, looks down, and there’s blood over everything.  Neither of us had any idea that Horned Lizards could project so far or so much.  We are appropriately startled.     We return to the group and join everyone for a mid-morning hike up a canyon.  Our aim is to find an Arizona Mountain Kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana pyromelana) but unfortunately none are about.  I’m told that normally it isn’t unusual to find them active on the surface in August; however, this monsoon season is proving to be drier than usual.  In fact, although we witness storm clouds gather daily, complete with thunder and lightning, we experience virtually no rain during our entire trip.  Most likely the snakes are remaining underground where conditions are cool and moist. We do, however, have a chance on this hike to see another of our target species.  Emily is wandering around when she calls out “Lepidus!”  We all come running to take a look at the little juvenile Banded Rock Rattlesnake she’s found crawling among the rocks. Actually, we’re lucky enough to find a complete set.  Late in the afternoon I’m exploring by a stream when I spot a large Mountain Spiny Lizard on a boulder.  The Australians, Mike and Steve, have just arrived at camp, so I decide to catch the critter and bring it back so they can get a good first look and take some close-ups.  The lizard keeps dodging me, running up one side and down the other, and I keep missing.  Finally it runs for cover under a flat rock at the base of the boulder.  Thinking “Gotcha now at last,” I flip the rock, make a grab, and miss again.  Suddenly, right near my hand, I hear the bzzzz of an angry, invisible Rattlesnake!   Quickly I pull back, then look and look.  But I just can’t see the snake, even though I hear it right in front of me, only inches away.  It is so weird.  Slowly it dawns on me that the sound is coming from underground, beneath the leaves uncovered by the rock I had flipped!  Using my snake hook I scratch away at the layer of leaf litter, and this adult female lepidus comes into view.   Meanwhile, back at the campsite, someone finds an adult male lepidus crawling on the rocks right near the entrance,  so in the end we get portraits of an entire family (sort of).           We do one final hike on our last day to search for an uncommon species of montane Rattlesnake.  Spend an hour or so but no luck.  Unfortunately, Danny and I need to be on our way, so we return to our car and prepare to leave.  But before going, we stop to photograph a different species of lizard that Mike the grad student was kind enough to show us.     Now we really need to go, but before we can get away, our Australian friends drop by, so we linger a while longer chatting with them.  Just about to make our good-byes, when from the top of the mountain we hear someone calling, “Pricei!”  A Twin-spotted Rattlesnake had been found!  Grateful for fortuitous delays, we scramble back up the slope and down the other side to where the rare snake has been spotted (pun intended) among the rocks.           That ended our August adventure in Arizona, and I came away delighted having discovered the sky islands and surrounding grasslands.  I was thrilled to have made so many first-time finds, including several of my top targets, such as Black-tailed and Banded Rock Rattlesnakes, though also disappointed at not seeing an AZ Mountain Kingsnake.  And, of course, though someone else in our group brought back a beautiful specimen for me to see, I still haven’t made a first-hand find of a Sonoran Gopher Snake! (see my travails from Arizona 2003 April).  Just another reason to return . . .  
 Danny Mendez  Danny Mendez
Texas Horned Lizard Phrynosoma cornutum
 Danny Mendez
Texas Horned Lizard Phrynosoma cornutum
 Danny Mendez  Danny Mendez
Banded Rock Rattlesnake (juvenile) Crotalus lepidus klauberi
Bunch Grass Lizard Sceloporus scalaris