And so it begins…

The night beforeAbout 6:30pm, 3 July 2012.

Though we had a few tantalizing sprinkles in June, the monsoon officially arrived last night. We got about a half inch of rain at headquarters and the 4th of July has started out cloudy and cool.

About 8:30 am, 4 July 2012

For the first time in weeks, every snake we checked on this morning was visible on the surface.

Henry (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake) was sitting out next to the twin lakes this morning in the mud. While we were recording data, he left his favorite crater and moved into the grass.

Henry, coiled in his usual crater, 4 July 2012.
Henry in his new spot in the grass, 4 July 2012.

We next checked on our other western diamond-backed, Stuart, whom we haven’t seen in a couple weeks. He’s been in a burrow at the base of a mesquite tree, where we assumed he was preparing to shed his skin. This morning he had moved into the wash and was coiled on the surface, freshly shed.

Stuart, male western diamond-backed rattlesnake, 4 July 2012.

We then tracked Glendy (male Arizona black rattlesnake), who was just upstream from Stuart. Glendy appeared to have been out last night in the rain, as he was splattered with mud.

Glendy, looking a little dirty after the storm, ,4 July 2012.

Because it was still cloudy and cool, we decided to take the long way back and look for snakes on the road. And we were rewarded with this little beauty:

Mohave rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus), coiled next to the road, 4 July 2012.

Mohave rattlesnakes are extremely rare here. Although we frequently (almost daily) see western diamond-backed, Arizona blacks, and black-tailed rattlesnakes, we have never seen a Mohave on the preserve. We’re told they show up once or twice a year, usually after it starts raining. As you can see above, Mohave and western diamond-backed rattlesnakes look very similar. The easiest way to distinguish the two species is by examining their tail bands:

Mohaves have relatively more white than black (left photo), while western diamond-backeds have fairly equal amounts of both (right photo).

Of course this snake was sitting on her tail, so we had to give her a nudge to get a good look at it:

Mohave rattlesnake, unhappily showing her tail in the bottom right.

The lizards and ants have been very active all day (enjoying the clouds and humidity), but we haven’t seen any more snakes… yet. As I finish this up, I hear distant thunder and its getting dark again. Hopefully we’ll luck into some more rain (and snakes!) tonight.

Have a safe and snakey 4th!


P.S. (5pm) It’s raining again!