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A few from the edge of the west... (Read 4837 times)
JWilliams
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A few from the edge of the west...
Aug 12th, 2008, 10:45am
 
Hello all. This is my first post on this forum, so I thought I introduce myself a little. My name is John Williams and I'm a wildlife biologist for a consulting firm in Houston. I grew up in Victoria TX, which is at the edge of South Texas scrub, the coastal grassland, and the blackland prairie. I consider that area the edge of the west. I guess I consider "The West" basically the range of atrox. I thought I'd share some photos of a recent trip to South Texas that a few friends and I took after hurricane Dolly rolled through. Because of several reasons, we could only get down there more than a week after the hurricane. The main goal of the trip was to hopefully catch some desperate male frogs still calling in remaining puddles. Some frogs were still calling, Hypopachus, Bufo marinus, Gastrophyrne, and even a large chorus of Leptodactylus, but I couldn't manage to photograph any of those, as they were on private property. We did dipnet a few tadpoles, both Rhinophrynus and Hypopachus I believe.

 
Here's what we were calling a Hypopachus tadpole

 
While cruising we found various frog and toad species, including Rio Grande Leopard frogs

 
and Giant toads, Bufo marinus, although for some reason I didn't take pics of any of the huge ones.

 
We saw close to 40 snakes the 2 nights we cruised, with the majority being atrox, both aor and dor

 

 
Longnosed snakes

 

 
Texas glossy snakes were really on the move

 
During the day we spent our time at Bentsen Rio and Sabal Palms, mainly looking for birds and lizards.
 
Texas spiny from Bentsen Rio

 
I watched this pair of Texas spotted whiptails interact at Sabal Palms for quite a while. I think it's a male and female, and they each had their own hole inbetween bricks. The male was going from hole to hole, just peering in, and sometimes kicking out a little sand. Once when he was tail deep in what I presumed was the females hole, she quickly ran over and bit him on the tail and shook. He didn't like that and chased her into the nearby flower bed. Other than that they seemed "friendly" and were well aware of both mine and eachother's presence.

 

 

 

 

 
We also saw a Blue spiny lizard at Bentsen Rio

 
Cruising around in late after noon produced 2 Texas Tortoises, both with stained red faces from eating prickly pear fruits

 

 
But the highlight of the trip was finding 2 Cat-eyed snakes, Leptodeira septentrionalis, in Starr county. A friend also found a third just a few days earlier, and all 3 were found within 10 miles of eachother. No doubt induced to come out by Dolly. My understanding is that they have been found this far west before, and ever further, but that these will be county records because none have been submitted to any collections.

 

 
Thanks for looking!
 
John
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« Last Edit: Aug 15th, 2008, 2:11pm by G. Keown »  
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G. Keown
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Re: A few from the edge of the west...
Reply #1 - Aug 12th, 2008, 11:27am
 
That a great first post!  It is obvious that Hurricane Dolly was good to South Texas herpers.  You have some neat finds there but most especially the two Cat-eyed snakes. There are no documented records of them from Starr County, Texas that I am aware of, but I have heard rumors of them being found there. Hope you are going to voucher at least the one that was DOR and get them written up in Herp Review or elsewhere as a range extension.  If you do write a natural history note of some type for the range extension we would be more than happy to archive a copy of it here in our Herpetological Papers and Articles Section.
 
I think the absolute 2 best finds that resulted from Hurricane Dolly are your two Cat-eyed Snakes in Starr County and Toby Hibbitts' Mexican Burrowing Toads in Jim Hogg County which also represents a range-extension for that species.  I just can't decide if one  trumps the other...they pretty much tie for being the best in my book.  Congratulatiuons on finding them.
 
BTW  welcome to our forums.  We hope you will make a habit of dropping in on a regular basis and getting involved in some of our discussions.
 
-Gerald
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JWilliams
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Re: A few from the edge of the west...
Reply #2 - Aug 12th, 2008, 11:40am
 
Thanks for the reply.  Both of the snakes were dor, the second one was cleverly disguised as live in the pic though.  Those two and the one from a few nights earlier were pickled that same weekend, and will be sent to the TCWC at somepoint.  I plan on writing it up for Herp Review, unless Toby does it when he gets the specimens.  We actually went to the ditches/fields that Toby found his Rhino's and there were no frogs calling in the remaining water.  That's somewhat of a natural history note, I guess, that they weren't calling after 8 days even though there was plenty of water.  
 
John
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Re: A few from the edge of the west...
Reply #3 - Aug 12th, 2008, 5:30pm
 
Welcome aboard, John, and congratulations on an outstanding summer-time south Texas trip. Apparently, just as in the tropics, if the frogs are out, so will be the Cat-eyes. Unfortunately, someone beat you to the punch for the county record:
 
Escalera, E., Saenz, D.S. and F. Zaidan III. 2007. Geographic distribution: Leptodeira septentrionalis septentrionalis. Herpetol. Rev. 38(4): 487. University of Texas--Pan American Vertebrate Museum (UTPA) photographic specimen 04071, from northern Starr County.
 
Gus Rentfro has posted several images of Starr Co. Leptodeira over the years, but has apparently never bothered to submit any for the record. I have personally seen - many years ago - a specimen collected from the environs of Falcon Lake in Zapata Co. (they were legal then and the lake was only recently filled at the time). I suspect that they have a somewhat larger range than is commonly thought, and that they will be eventually found in Jim Hogg and Brooks counties, as well as Zapata, if only someone could access enough cattle tanks on those huge ranches in that area.
 
Thanks for posting those excellent photos and your observations on the interesting A. gularis behavior.  
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Tom Lott
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RCampbell
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Re: A few from the edge of the west...
Reply #4 - Aug 13th, 2008, 10:37am
 
What a cool trip. I am jonesing now for a south TX trip....besides, Starr county atrox are the ones to get for size!
 
Tom, interesting note on the cat eyes. I also think that they are much wider ranging than is currently recognized in print, but due to nature of the snake and habitat seldom are seen. I look forward to seeing more herpers getting permission to herp some of the larger ranches and document them.
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Get out and look.....that is where you find them.
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Diego Ortiz
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Re: A few from the edge of the west...
Reply #5 - Aug 13th, 2008, 10:51am
 
Great post!   Smiley
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Diego Ortiz
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Re: A few from the edge of the west...
Reply #6 - Aug 14th, 2008, 3:58pm
 
Nice post! To bad about the Cat eyed snakes. Those are very cool looking snakes, almost like a very colorful Lyre snake.
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Re: A few from the edge of the west...
Reply #7 - Aug 14th, 2008, 6:17pm
 
John, what a way to open it up! Welcome to the forums and I hope you contribute frequently, as the Houston area doesn't get paid enough attention to! I am definitely jealous of your findings as I was on the hunt after Dolly as well, but didn't have near the excitement as you did!!! Cool The frogs and toads were concentrated along 77 around Combs the night I went, which was about the same time you went. I didn't see the cat eyed's from the area I was expecting them in though. Sad Hope you stop in often with some milk and tan racers from your way! Again, welcome and great post!
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DarylEby
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Re: A few from the edge of the west...
Reply #8 - Aug 14th, 2008, 11:15pm
 
Nice  Grin
 
I love the tortoises and cat-eyed snakes.
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