Readers’ wildlife photos

June 20, 2023 • 8:15 am

We have a new batch of photos from reader Larry Powell.  His captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here are some pictures, mainly of amphibians and reptiles, from a trip I took a few years ago to southeastern Arizona to help a friend with some fieldwork. A busman’s holiday for me, as I saw a lot of amphibian and reptile species I’d never encountered in the field, and got to spend some time in beautiful country with good company.

First off, one for the entomologically-inclined – what I believe to be Giant Mesquite Bugs (Thasus neocalifornicus). We found aggregations of these large impressive insects on mesquite bushes (of all places) while looking for lizards on the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch. Going by the red banding on the legs, these are females. There’s a nice account of this species here.

This Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus) was waiting outside when we left our field headquarters one morning. It’s apparently quite a dangerous species, with potent venom, but this individual appeared to be fairly phlegmatic.

I believe that this is a Western Patch-Nosed Snake (Salvadora hexalepis), going by the number of upper labials – the large scale on the end of the rostrum identifies it to genus; but there’s more than one species in that corner of Arizona. This one was encountered on the gravel road leading to the highway.

We were in Arizona during what’s called the monsoon season (June – September), and got caught in some spectacular thunderstorms. After one, the dry wash near our field headquarters filled overnight, with standing pools crowded with spadefoot toads, which spend most of their adult lives buried but breed explosively when the rains come. This individual is a Couch’s Spadefoot toad (Scaphiopus couchii) that I removed from the breeding festivities for a portrait.

There are four species of horned lizards (Phrynosoma) found in the SE corner of Arizona, and I’d hoped to see one or more that I’d never seen in the wild. However, the only individual I encountered was this neonate Greater Short-horned Lizard (P. hernandesi), which belongs to the species I’ve been working on in Alberta for years. Still nice to see, though.

From the Sonoita Valley we moved up to the Chiricahua Mountains, and here we encountered this Madrean Alligator Lizard (Elgaria kingii), hidden under some wood litter. This individual is regenerating its tail.

The Chiricahuas constitute a sky island archipelago, high enough in elevation to harbour life zones not typical of the surrounding desert. We spent our time there in the deciduous forest and coniferous forest biomes, which were at just the right temperature from my point of view. Common at higher elevations was Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus jarrovii); a subadult is shown here. This species is viviparous. They are very quick on their feet.

Another, less conspicuous high-elevation lizard in the Chiricahuas is the Slevin’s Bunchgrass Lizard (Sceloporus sleveni). Despite being mainly found at high elevations, this species is oviparous. Like S. jarrovi, they are exceedingly nimble.

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