Thursday, January 1, 2009

Herping on New Year's

I love the winters in southern California. After being in Provo and walking to school in snow and freezing wind, taking a trip to California in late December has been a nice change. The temperature has been in the low 70s, so Devin and I took advantage of the beautiful weather to get in some "winter" herping. The few short days exploring the boulder-strewn hillsides of Moreno Valley would prove to be just as successful as any warm spring or summer day.

Originally, my goal was to find one of two lizards that has continually eluded me: either the granite night lizard or the California legless lizard. It seems as though these tricky reptiles have once again given me the slip. Although I'll have to await a future day to find them, I did manage to get some great finds in to boost my spirits and fill my herping cantine until spring and summer roll around.

One morning Devin and I drove to the Lake Perris area and around Moreno Valley to hike the foothills and explore the granite crevices for granite night lizards. No such luck this time. Our efforts, however, would yield other herps like side-blotched lizards, western fence lizards, granite spiny lizards, western skinks, California slender salamanders, and Pacific treefrogs. In addition, we'd see centipedes, millipedes, a small tarantula, and a scorpion. Our best find of the day was a lyre snake found under a slab of granite rock. I had never found a lyre snake before, so seeing this secretive, mildly venemous night dweller was a herp I was proud to check off the list.

California slender salamander
Western skinkSide-blotched lizard
Lyre snake
The next day, Devin and I returned to the hills to release the lyre snake and do some additional herping. Lo and behold, not long after the release we spotted a large red-diamond rattlesnake curled beneath a bush against a large boulder. The snake was about 30 inches or more, but about 5 feet from the first snake, we found another red-diamond that was even larger.

Our adrenaline was pumping after finding two large rattlesnakes, so we kept working our way around the side of the hill, trying to stay on the sunny slopes. The sun was dipping low in the sky and our shadows were getting long. We'd only herp for a few more minutes before heading back. I jumped onto a boulder, looked down off the back side, and stretched out below me on the ground was a beautiful rosy boa.
I'd say it turned out to be a pretty decent herp trip, considering the fact that we weren't out but a couple hours each day. I was able to check herps off my holiday wish list that I had not seen before, get some good photos, and rejuvinate my herping spirit that will have to remain in hibernation once I return to the wintry wonderland of central Utah.

Holiday Cardiffering

For those who don't know, the verb "to cardiff" was coined by Devin Bergquist and me to mean the exploration of tide pools. It comes from "Cardiff by the Sea", a beach location in southern California. Rather than say "explore tide pools" every time, why not simplify it with "cardiff"? we did. Now herping, spelunking, and cardiffering can be on one's list of favorite hobbies.
At any rate, Devin and Diana Bergquist, his younger brother Chad, and I managed to get some cardiffering done this holiday break. With the tide at its lowest point in late afternoon, the four of us set out to see if we could locate marine critters trapped in the tide pools.
With blue jeans rolled to the shins, we would tiptoe from rock to rock while peering into the clear, still water for signs of life. Occasionally, a larger wave would spill over sending us several paces back to shore to avoid soaking our shoes and socks. Eager for some interesting finds, we'd hop back and begin overturning rocks, moving aside kelp, and sifting our hands through the sandy bottoms of the pools.
It didn't take too long before we began finding critters!

Our list of critters includes the following: a shore crab (first picture), brittlestars (2nd and 5th pics--the two pics possibly represent different species), a small, unusual looking fish (3rd), and a kelp crab (4th). Also caught, but unphotographed include: a couple large purple sea slugs, a small black-and-yellow sea slug, several snails, hermit crabs, another fish specie, small shrimp, and what seemed to be a baby lobster.

Not long afterwards, we would celebrate the capture of a critter we had especially wanted to see--a twin-spotted octopus. Before the day was through, we would end up finding several. No other tourists found any, but their cardiffering was less than thorough. Devin and I gained a reputation among those at the tide pools as the two to follow if you wanted to see some interesting marine life. The first octopus was small, its body no larger than my thumb. Others, however, would be a good handful of goo and gripping tentacles.
We didn't know how the octopi would react to being held, but they just seemed to want to get away. They didn't bite, altough a large one did ink me before the day was over. It turned out to be a fun, successful, educational day at the beach!