Monday, May 25, 2009

Searching for Snakes

Desert Boy and I joined a group searching for kingsnakes, along with other snakes and lizards a few days ago. We knew it wouldn't be easy, but we were ready.

Desert Boy started off trotting down the road. He found a puddle, and it was hard to convince him that we should go any further. But eventually we did.

The wildflowers were stunning. I was surprised to find four different penstemons. Above is thickleaf beardstongue (Penstemon pachyphyllus). Do you see the really hairy staminode (hairy thing sticking out of the middle of the flower)? That's one of the ways to help tell penstemons apart. First look at color, then if the stems are hairy or smooth, and then if the leaves, corollas (flower petals), and staminodes are hairy or smooth.

This penstemon has a smooth staminode. It's called Owens Valley beardstongue (Penstemon confusus). I really like the stripes on the inner parts of the petals.

The bright red of this penstemon sets it apart from the other ones we saw. It has the great name of firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii).

And one more...Tunnel springs beardstongue (Penstemon concinnus). It was a lot shorter than the other ones and had hairy stem and leaves. 

Okay, I know we were supposed to be looking for snakes, but they were a bit elusive, while the wildflowers were so eye-catching. We did keep our eyes on the ground, though, and eventually we saw...

...a lizard! This is a sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus graciosus). Do you see the stripes running down his back?

Here is Meg searching up high on the hillside opposite us. People went up and down, looked under dead trees and in rock crevices. Everyone spread out to cover as much ground as possible.

Desert Boy got a bit worn out from all the traipsing up and down the hillsides. But with a snack, he was ready to go again.

We went up to some rocks and found large clusters of Kingcup cactus (Echinocerus triglochidiatus). To my utter amazement, Desert Boy walked through them with nary a fall and a spine in his hand.

On the way back down, we saw a different lizard. This one doesn't have stripes lengthwise like the sagebrush lizard, but instead has stripes going across his body. This is a western fence lizard (Sceloperus occidentalis). 

When we got down the hillside, we reached a little spring, and water was running across the road. You can imagine Desert Boy's delight.

He was in the water faster than I could say "No," which is pretty darned fast.

The only problem was that while I was photographing wildflowers, he somehow managed to find a muddy spot and fall down in it.

And before I knew it, he was in an even bigger mud hole and was scrambling to get out of it. 
By this time I knew he was completely coated with mud, and it didn't matter if he got any dirtier.

Oops. Might as well get entirely coated with mud. He wasn't too happy when I told him we had to start heading back to the truck, about a mile away. And he was going to have to walk the entire time because I didn't want to pick him and all his mud up.

Fortunately, we came across some snake hunters who had better success.

They had caught a night snake (Hypsiglena torquata) and put it in the smaller plastic container, and a Great Basin rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis lutosis). The rattlesnake rattled incessantly, so we put him back and took a closer look at the night snake.

And we thought we might get even a little closer...

The biologist is showing the snake to Desert Boy and explaining how to handle him.

Desert Boy reaches over to touch.

And then decides he can probably hold the little snake all by himself.

He didn't talk while he handled it, just watched in fascination.

The snake may be wondering what all the mud is about. It typically hangs out in drier areas.

So even though we didn't find any snakes ourselves, we felt pretty lucky to get to see a couple close up that others caught. 


The Incredible Woody said...

I love how are instilling such curiousity in Desert Boy. Even if the thought of him holding that snake gives me the willies!!

Leslie said...

I just have to say thank you for allowing Desert Boy to truly experience his world. I know too many parents these days who would never allow their children to play in the dirt or get into "dangerous" situations like he does. I grew up stomping around in the woods with little supervision, getting wet, dirty, bruised, and scratched, and I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything.

Sliv said...

Quite a trek for a 2 year old. Great experiences. I enjoy his focus and curiosity, as well as his love of messing around in water and mud.
What are they going to do with the snakes?

Anonymous said...

I was on the phone with grandma B when I was looking at today's blog. She enjoyed hearing about all DB's adventures. What a fun, and educational life he has! You couldn't do that in the big city!


Caroline said...

I'll agree with the above posts! Few children or adults get to experience the sights and wonders the two of you do. He is a very blessed child.


Bird said...

I feel like cheering when I see kids being encouraged to explore nature first hand like this. I've worked with urban kids who are too afraid to walk on grass. Seeing this mud spattered little boy absorbed in the snake he is holding gives me hope that not everyone has lost touch with what really matters. Thank you!

Gary Keimig said...

That is great to let your son experience nature in its rawest forms. I applaud you. He will never forget it. Thanks for the postings. Enjoyed the desert flora too. There is just so much out there when we look for it.

jendoop said...

Yeah for Desert Boy! My kiddos are scared of bees. Bees for heaven's sake! I wish we had a few more opportunities when they were young to swim naked (your next post), get muddy, and play with snakes. Although I might beg you to take them snake hunting because I can't even stand the garder snake in my yard.

Viagra Online said...

The hunting of snakes is something I enjoy very much, my father takes me every time he can. We are going capturing snakes next week. I can't wait for that day come.

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