Saturday, June 21, 2014

Mt. Dana

On Friday, we spontaneously decided to go to Yosemite for the weekend and hike Mount Dana. Well, truth be told, it was my idea (my parents thought that the hike, only 5.2 miles, would take us about 3 hours or so, and then we would be free to roam around the park and the neighboring town of Lee Vining). In the end, it more than paid off.

My mother could not reach the summit due to altitude sickness. My dad had trouble breathing and almost didn't make the last 50 meters, but he managed to push through and finish. I, on the other hand, was completely fine until we turned around, after which my minor headache turned into a throbbing pulse which lasted until I fell asleep, and returned in a milder form the next day. Oh well.

Yellow-Bellied Marmots were found scampering over rocks all over Tuolumne Meadows. The photo below was taken by a curious little guy who came quite close. Photo credits to my father.

Yellow-Bellied Marmot
(Marmota flaviventris)

As for the summit itself, it marks the highest peak (or point of land in general) I have set foot on, ever. A big thanks to the kind people who took the next picture (and are found in the panorama).

Mt. Dana Summit
13,061' (3,981m)

Survey Marker

Peak Selfie with Dad

The panorama can be found HERE. (Click on the thumbnail to go into 360 degree viewing)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

First Horned Lizard

This was supposed to be posted 5 days ago, but I got lazy, so I've changed the date in the settings (Shh... Don't tell anyone).

I've never found, let alone catch, one of these lizards before, but have always wanted to. This guy was not aggressive in the least and eventually decided to relax and bask in the palm of my hand. When released, he slowly waddled over under the bush where we saw him.

Blainville's Horned Lizard
(Phrynosoma blainvillii)

Friday, June 6, 2014

SoCal Trip 05.29.14 - 06.01.14

It's taken me a while to upload some pictures on here, so (finally), here are some of my favorites.

Columbian Mammoth (Mammuthus columbi)
at Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits

Western Side-Blotched Lizard
(Uta stansburiana elegans)

Another Western Side-Blotched Lizard
(Uta stansburina elegans)

Sunset and Southern Pacific Rattlesnake
(Crotalus oreganus helleri)

Red Rock Canyon State Park

Western Forest Scorpion
(Uroctonus mordax mordax)

Sierra Fence Lizard
(Sceloporus occidentalis taylori)

Monday, May 26, 2014

GoPro + Sport Kite + Duct Tape = Dizziness

Towards the end, there are a few segments of stable stalling, I swear!

Here are some still shots.

Like father, like daughter...

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hello Again, Redwood Forests

On Mondays, I get out of school a few hours early. I took advantage of the time and went out to the Santa Cruz mountains once again today.

Western Forest Scorpion
(Uroctonus mordax)

I found a few of these under a rock near a stream. No idea what they are, but this one moved around on my hand. They seem to be some kind of terrestrial (but they may be aquatic) isopods.

The underbelly of the creature.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The "Less Than 2 Weeks Before Summer Vacation!" Hike

Finally, summer is almost here. In less than two weeks, I will be out!
Here's some photos from my late afternoon hike at Almaden Quicksilver...

Picnic tables are the best place to relax...

Darkling Beetle in Attack Mode

Darkling Beetle Eating

Snake Got Stuck and Died?

I came upon this yesterday. A snake (gopher, I presume) tried to go through an old pipe, got stuck, couldn't go backwards, and died, I presume. I've never seen anything like this before, although the folks over at Field Herp Forum claim they see it often, especially with human trash such as nets.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Learning to Use My Tongs

My tongs came in today! Interestingly enough, the UPS guy who delivered it turned out to be really into catching snakes and had this exciting conversation with my mom whilst I, unknowingly, sat in the bathroom. Oh well!

I did not get the Gentle Giant tongs, so I am slowly learning to use these ones, making sure to not hold the snake tight enough rather than hold it too tight when picking it up. I have not gotten the hang of it yet and used my hook for the most part, but I'm getting there!

I found a very green (and very pissed off) Northern Pacific. He was fangs-deep in a western fence lizard, which eventually shook its tail and was let go, stumbling into the grasses and probably dying there, to be eaten later. (Note: He released his prey without my disturbance. I only picked him up when the lizard went off.) I did not know that rattlers held on to their prey like this...

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
(Crotalus oreganus oreganus)
and Western Fence Lizard
(Sceloporus occidentalis bocourtii) in mouth.

Rattlesnake after the lizard ran off.

You can see the intense green coloration of the
snake in this picture.

I also found a California Kingsnake which was extremely uneasy and covered my entire hands in musk (of which my dad complains I still smell like, even after a shower and multiple sessions of intense scrubbing).

California Kingsnake
(Lampropeltis getula californiae)

And finally, we found an interesting spider. I could not identify it, so if anybody knows what it is, please reply in a comment or send me a private message!
Edit: Thank you Zach_Lim from Field Herp Forum for identification!

Camel Spider

Monday, May 5, 2014

Post-AP Relaxation

The AP Chemistry test being over, I decided to head out and search the hills for whatever I could find.

While creeping around off-trail, trying to avoid the vast forests of poison oak, I flipped an old cloth that had somehow wound up there, finding a little Jerusalem cricket. He played dead until I turned my hand over and he crawled over to the other side.

Jerusalem Cricket (aka Potato Bug)

I also went back to where we found the rattlesnake yesterday. I had messed up the planks of wood which it called home yesterday and was not able to put them back because the little guy slithered off into the tall grass, and I did really not want to step on him. Thankfully, it was quite cool today, and he had found a place to nestle in. I pulled him out and he got used to the snake hook quite quickly.

I noticed immediately that he was missing a few rattles. This is normal, and is why you cannot always age a rattlesnake by the number it has.

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
(Crotalus oreganus oreganus)

He quickly learned not to slide off
of the hook.

This is by far one of my favorite pictures of a rattlesnake which I have taken. Hopefully, there are many more like this to come!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Pre-AP Relaxation

My AP Chemistry test in tomorrow morning, and I needed some time to relax. My parents were willing to come with me to search for snakes. (All photo credit to them, since I was busy flipping logs.)
We only found one, but oh my was he/she beautiful.

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
(Crotalus oreganus oreganus)

This is one of my favorites. My dad calls it my "Austin
Stevens Picture." Not enough heroic glory, in my opinion.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Aging a Black-tailed Deer with a Jawbone

About two weeks ago, I was out hiking and stumbled upon a black-tailed deer carcass. I decided to let it stay out in the hills for a week, and then I came and took the jawbone home. After hours of cleaning and multiple bottles of hydrogen peroxide, here is the (half) jawbone, finally cleaned:

Jaw from Black-tailed Deer
(Odocoileus hemionus columbianus)

Listed below the individual teeth are the numbers for the molars (M) and premolars (P). Unfortunately, premolar 1 was broken off when I found the bone.
Using this guide, I was able to judge that the deer was, sadly, just under 2.5 years old when it died. Premolar 3, which had two cusps instead of three, determined that the deer was over 1.5 years old.

I then saw that the dentin on the premolar 3 was narrower at the enamel at the crests but about the same to a little bit wider on molar 1. This let me know that the deer was older than 19 months but a little younger than 2.5 years. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring Break 2014, Santa Cruz Mountains

I went up into the Santa Cruz mountains on Monday to look for some critters for a couple of hours. No snakes were found, but many other little guys were kind enough to stay still long enough for pictures.

These little dudes were under every rotten log we found. They would often curl up into a little spiral when threatened by my giant hand.

California Slender Salamander
(Batrachoseps attenuatus)

Of course, who could forget the slugs? They were everywhere, totaling up to at least 50 on our walk.

Banana Slug
(Ariolimax columbianus (or Ariolimax californicus?))

This one wanted to run, and it was a challenge getting him to stay still, but after countless times of picking him up and putting him on the little piece of rotting wood I arranged for him, he got the idea.

Yellow-Eyed Ensatina
(Ensatina eschscholtzii xanthoptica)

This is the first guy I found. I couldn't identify him for quite a while because of the darker skin and the warts, but I finally stumbled upon a picture that looked like him some website somewhere. I read up on the warts, and it seems to be some sort of disease. Hope he's okay.

California Giant Salamander
(Dicamptodon ensatus)

This guy was pretty big. Although they are very common, every time I pick one up I am surprised by how much they weigh compared to other little animals I find.

Common Millipede
(Tylobolus uncigerus?)

This one didn't bite at all, which is unusual for this type of lizard, since they are normally aggressive when handled. It's probably because he was still a juvenile (didn't seem full grown). Nonetheless, his tail was very beautiful, and I needed a picture even though he wouldn't stand still long enough for me to take one that was in focus.

San Francisco Alligator Lizard
(Elgaria coerulea coerulea)

There are two types of alligator lizards here in the bay area, the northern and southern varieties. This guy is a subspecies of the northern variety as you can tell by his eye color, which is dark, unlike the pale yellow or white eyes (not the pupil of course) of the southern variety.

I conclude this post with a video instead of a picture, because the light was too low to be able to focus with the camera I was using. Here is the yellow-spotted millipede, which (interesting fact coming up) also happens to secrete hydrogen cyanide as a counter-attack against predators. It is therefore rightfully nicknamed the "almond-scented millipede."

Yellow-spotted Millipede
(Harpaphe haydeniana)