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
CALIFORNIA
April 2009
3 of 6
CALIFORNIA
April 2009
3 of 6
The remainder of the day is a bust.  Unfortunately, I seem to have arrived in California during a transition period.  The weather is too warm and dry for finding herps under cover in the coastal hills and mountains, while farther inland it’s still too cool for most desert species.   Still, we spend the twilight hours roadcruising intensely, searching for two high-priority targets.  Mine is a Rosy Boa  nothing special to SoCal herpers who catch them all the time, but for an Easterner like me, it’s a major big deal.  I know that Boas can be found under rocks or crossing a road, but recently I learned they can also be spotted on the crawl while hunting rodent holes around the base of canyon walls.  That’s how I wanted to find one now, observing natural behavior under natural conditions. Darin, on the other hand, is eager to find a Mojave Patchnose.  To appreciate why, it helps to understand Darin.  He’s a most methodical herper, very well organized, the type that keeps detailed and meticulous field notes, then studies the data to determine where and when the best herping should be; he earns every snake he finds.  But behind that empirical approach is an enthusiastic passion for discovery, especially when it comes to checking new snakes off his life list, whether it be species, subspecies, or local variations. So it’s a particular source of frustration for him, that for all the years he’s been herping the desert, Darin has yet to see a live Mojave Patchnose.  Last time out he came close, finding a freshly-hit roadkill, but this is a snake that continues to elude him.  And so it is this night as well.  Our roadcruising produces neither of our targets, nor anything else, for that matter.   The next day we hike a small canyon, hoping for better luck, but all we see are Spiny Lizards, who look down on us with a combination of pity and disdain.   We decide to drive around instead.  A Leopard Lizard is spotted (a punishable pun, I know . . . oops, did it again), and we jump out of the car, carefully trying not to spook our quarry.  And once again, Devin performs his magic, giving us the gift of an extended photo session.     We continue to be skunked throughout the day; things are not looking good.  Towards evening we head back to last night’s road for a repeat attempt at Rosies.  En route we round a curve, and seeing a snake in the distance (at last!), Devin says matter-of-factly, “Gopher.” We get closer and Darin hops out.  He walks a few feet . . . pauses . . .  . . . then starts yelling, “No, it’s a Patchnose!!” High fives all around, celebrating Darin’s moment of victory.  Then, feeling a bit more optimistic, it’s back to cruising.  And, in fact, we do encounter a couple more snakes on the road.  Although the species are common, at this point, we’re grateful for anything that shows up.   Once more we enter the hilly terrain where I’m hoping to see a Rosy on the prowl. I’m looking low, along the base where the slopes meet the road, but turn after turn reveals nothing.  Devin, however, knows better; he’s also scanning the steep rocky hillsides above the road. Eventually he brings the car to a slow stop, points out the window to a spot up the canyon wall, and says to me, “There’s your Boa.”
Desert Spiny Lizard Sceloporus magister
Long-nosed Leopard Lizard Gambelia wislizenii
Mojave Patchnose Salvadora hexalepis mojavensis
Mojave Desert Sidewinder Crotalus cerastes cerastes
Long-nosed Snake Rhinocheilus lecontei
Rosy Boa Lichanura trivirgata