Four days/nights in one of the hottest places in the state during the summer, no better way to spend the fourth of July in my opinion. This trip would prove to be quite the challenge due to the heat and unfamiliar territory. That being said, I left with a better understanding of the park and got some decent results. Only totalled 10 snakes; 4 mojave desert sidewinders, 1 mojave glossy snake, 1 great basin gophersnake, 1 panamint rattlesnake, 1 northern desert nightsnake, 1 mojave shovel-nosed snake, and 1 spotted leaf-nosed snake. That’s 6 lifers! A great introduction to that region, but theres much more to see out there. Another benefit of being out there was the stars. Got some great photos (including the thumbnail) but am looking into adding star photos in another place on the website so look out for that. I also spent one night in the Mojave but got skunked so we will have to dedicate a trip there at some other point. Last note before getting into the post, finally made major use of my Tamron 100mm macro lens and am really enjoying the quality of images it produces.
The night got off to a good start as a pair of sidewinders were found not too far apart. I enjoyed the pattern on these ones more so than the colorado desert sidewinder. Something about the grey coloration is more appealing to me.
Demonstrating some interesting periscoping behavior.
The second one of the night. A little smaller and jazzed with energy. It didn’t want to pose for photos.
The road was littered with geckos. What I believe to be a western banded gecko even ran up my leg at one point.
Not much else for the first night aside from stars, quail, a desert kit fox, and coyotes.
Near Death Valley I had to stop for a long-nosed leopard lizard chilling in the road. Patient enough to let me snap a picture before darting off.
This night kicked off with some DORs. A red racer and desert whipsnake no more than 100m’s apart. After turning around to identify them I was shocked to see a gophersnake had started to slither onto the road.
Got this shot before walking closer.
Turned out to be full of energy and not wanting to deal with humans. It hissed and displayed defensive behavior (preparing to strike and flattening head). Quickly changing it’s mind, it turned around and darted off the road. I was dissapointed to not get a picture showing its pattern or size as it was roughly three and a half feet. This is all I got as it disappeared off the road.
Left the park for a bit to try out some bordering roads. Seemed like a good sign when I quickly came upon another sidewinder. This guy took shelter near the tire of my car (no I did not almost run it over).
Another one not too much later. Did not seem bothered by my presence and continued to “step” alongside the road. Only stopped when a mouse scuttled across the road in front of it.
Found it odd to start this trip so sidewinder heavy and not see another one for the duration of the trip. Later on this same road I cam across a glossy snake. This little guy immediately got into a defensive stance. Unfortunately, my camera settings were messed up so this is the best shot I got.
Returning to the park after the glossy paid off with this little surprise!
This was a target of the trip that I didn’t fully expect to actually find. I was overjoyed to see this. Even more so when it started to coil up and pose for me.
Continued cruising for a short while but only saw two DORs. Another sidewinder and a kingsnake. Happy with the night and still riding the panamint high, I turned in for the night. Had high hopes and planned to head to the Mojave for the following night.
The unfortunate night spent in the Mojave. One night was not enough to familiarize myself to the terrain. Got caught on the wrong roads at the wrong times. No snakes aside from a DOR mojave rattlesnake. Another lifer just missed. Highlights were the plethora of rabbits and a badger. Need to come back.
Couldn’t help but stop by Ash Meadows during the day to check out their endangered pupfish. Went into the final night with high expectations. They were quickly met when I came across this guy.
Instantly recognizable as a nightsnake, I was surprised to see how long it was. The california nightsnakes I have found up north have been much smaller and darker in coloration. Despite that, its unique collar gave it away.
I love their slit eye.
Not too long after the nightsnake, came across another surprisingly big (for its species) snake. The mojave shovel-nosed snake. I didn’t expect the brown and yellow coloration to be this vibrant.
Chased him off the road where it took refuge in some, to my shock, thorny bushes on the side of the road. Surprised that this fossorial species seemed to have an innate desire to climb. After I removed it from the bush, it tried to climb up my boot.
In the habitat where it can actually make use of its shovel nose. It obviously has as it’s head is dustier than the rest of its body.
Showing off how long this snake was.
The true heartbreak of the night came a couple hours later when I found a DOR patch nose, another one of my goals. Not too long after though, the last snake of the trip was found. A spotted leaf-nose. Like the other snakes found that night, it’s nose had desert dust on it and it was quite large compared to other leaf noses I have found.
All in all, a good trip. Glad to have seen such diversity and so many lifers. I truly feel as though I understand the park better and could continue my success given more time. The true tragedy was the night at Mojave and the fact that I saw 3 DORs that would have been lifers.