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A couple of days after returning from Spain with my family I already had my bags packed for an other adventure, this time it was a 100% herping trip only around 9000 km away from home.
It all started in april, I had a week of herping with Tim Warfel and Chris Macdonald in Europe, we searched at several countries for vipers and managed to find 5 species in that time.
Now it was time for me to go with them to Sonora, Mexico to search for many reptile and amphibian species that were known by me since I was a kid. Unfortunately Chris could not make it on this trip.
The team for the entire trip was only 3 of us, Tim Warfel, Andy O' Connor and myself, but the biggest part of the trip was with a big group of people from all over the US and we stayed around Alamos. Further along the way we met with many others.
So first a short introduction of the small team.
Tim was the chief of the trip, he prepared and organized almost everything and I must say, it was an absolute succes, he made sure we met many people along the way and every location we had a great time and found some real good animals.
I know Tim is known for his skills to tear up rental cars, but still I let him drive many times and there was only one crack in the front fender when we returned it, Im not saying he did that, it is still a mystery who fucked the car up.
If you are reading this and you think you know it, please mention your guess at the bottom of this report in the 'COMMENTS' section.
Andy and I met for the first time, he is a night person and has the best eyes for road cruising. This is great because Im a morning person and we sort of put the right guy in the right place at the right time, in the morning Andy was in the back of the car complaining it was too early again and very late at night I was in the back pretending to be still awake while he spotted the tiniest of animals on the road, so that was perfect.
Andy also likes to make live movies on fb, most of them with everybody still dressed, I think the nude herping ones are deleted now..
Andy is probably born for getting minor physical injuries on a daily basis while herping, sliding down slopes, getting stuck under rocks, Mexican Tree Frogs jumping in his eye, almost breaking his back and bending his ankle too far while herping resulted many times into Andy being a bit less operational for a short time, within 24 hour he was always fine again and finding very cool animals like the Cantil healed him from all misery within 1 minute.
And myself, but there is nothing interesting to say about me.
On the 16th of august I flew from Amsterdam to Dallas and after that to Phoenix, Arizona, the flights were not that bad, but in Amsterdam it already started with a delay so when I arrived in Dallas I had 3,5 hours to get my next flight, that is more than enough in the entire world, but here it was not!
All the lovely things you have to do at least 3 times at customs made me miss my flight, luckily I could take the next one 2 hours later and arrived in Phoenix around 20:00, which is 08:00 pm for people who have trouble using the 24 hour clock.
After I got the rental car Tim was already waiting for me and had a good plan for that night, after traveling for 24 hours sleep is not important, finding snakes is always the best thing to do! We drove to a place and searched for a couple of hours and we got lucky when we almost stepped into the car again, I found my first Speckled Rattlesnake ever and Tim walked in on a Sonoran Gopher Snake.
That night Tim arranged a sleeping place at the Cravens family, Michael and Mary had a very cool airstream in the garden and we could sleep in there. Before we went to bed we had a beer first. I brought some beers and so did Tim, so we started with his beers and they were great after a 34 hour day of being awake. I slept around 4 hours and enjoyed the morning sun a little bit until Tim woke up too.
Michael invited us in and Mary made a perfect breakfast. Thanks so much for the hospitality Michael & Mary!!
It was around 10:00 and time now to pick up Andy from the airport and while we drove there Tim started to look very serious and said: "Listen, there is something you should know about Andy." so I said: "what is it??" Tim opened a beer and said: "Andy is a real cool guy and a great herper, but he is getting married and Im afraid he will be chained down by his future wife...This might be one of his last herping adventures ever! So we have to be good herping buddies and support him when he needs it, we have only 3 weeks to fire all of our best advice his way!"
When Andy was in the car we celebrated I don't know what with a dutch beer, except for the driver of course. We drove to Tucson and when we were there we spend some time in a very hot valley where we saw several lizard species and a Giant Desert Centipede.
In the afternoon we met with many others who would be part of the team for the next week, the best place to meet was 'In n Out burger' and the guys mentioned only 25 times that I should order the '4x4 animal style', so I did and it was a high energy burger good for the next 72 hours of herping.
In the late afternoon Brian Hughes took us all to a place where we searched for Arizona Black Rattle Snakes, but we only saw some Black-necked Garter Snakes and Andy and I tried to catch a Great Plains Skink.
That night we slept in a hotel in Tucson.
Crossing the border, 18th of august.
This day was used to get into Mexico and drive all the way to the coast, but before we arrived we needed some food and Hermosillo was the place to get my first real Mexican food ever. At the coast we found ourselves a hotel and there we started to search for our target of the day, we looked for rocky places because the Dickerson's Collared Lizards could be there, while searching we were a bit distracted by owls sitting on the rocky slopes, but this time it was good to be a little distracted because when I came closer to the owls I saw a blue head looking at me from only 2 meters away, I quickly made some photos and shouted to Andy who was 200 meters away from me.
Tim warned the other guys and I think that almost everybody got to see this handsome male smurf lizard. I searched further and found some rocks with lizard poo on them, but no lizards. The sun was almost gone and just before it got dark we saw some more cool lizards.
That night we killed the time and some nightjars with driving some roads up and down and this was not without results, our car started and ended with a Black-tailed Rattlesnake, in between that time we found several Sidewinders and a very good looking young male Tiger Rattlesnake with beautiful eyes in black and white.
While road cruising we were driving behind a slow driving car, so we passed him, but than he stepped on the gas and did the same only to slow down after it again, so when we passed him for the second time we saw a Sidewinder on the road, so the moment we were next to the car I hit the brakes as hard as I could and when you brake with our 'killer hybrid car' you will stop fast! The other car slowed down, checked out what we were doing and after a while they drove away.
The other guys found similar stuff and on top of that some Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes and some other snake species.
The next morning we photographed the finds from the previous night and after that I tried to find an other Dickerson's Collared Lizard and this time I found a female, which is totally different in color compared to the male. This species was in my top 3 for sure of the possible lizards we could find during this trip so it was time to open a special beer!
That night we slept in Hermosillo and cruised some roads in that area. Not much was found, I was driving with Andy and we found a suicidal Hognosed Skunk who jumped of the bridge, it was at least 15 meters, but we did not see it anymore when we looked over the edge.
Some others had the pleasure of meeting with some cops who told them to follow their car, but instead of driving into the city they drove out of it. Our team members were smart and changed direction on a crossing, stepped on the gas and got rid of the cops.
20th of august
After a breakfast buffet with a nasty side effect we drove to Alamos and on the way we checked out a river for some sliders, they were a bit shy, so we only got some photos from a distance. Before we arrived in Alamos we had some tacos at Ciudad Obregon and they were tasty, but I could not get them in very well, but I tried anyway, you never know when you can get your next meal..
In Alamos we arrived in the late afternoon and the evening was used for road cruising. For me it was a special night, the breakfast buffet in the morning gave me a slightly shitty feeling all day, but nothing happened until we went road cruising, I was already on the backseat because it is better to be sick in a car and still see some animals than being sick on a bed and see nothing.
We talked about what to do when I would yell: "stop the car" and that worked out fine, after I puked out more than I had inside of me I instantly felt better and the night turned out to be great after all!
The next morning we went to the river and searched in that area, it was pretty hot, perfect swimming weather!
The first night in Alamos was a good one for snakes, many species were found, Pat & Armin found a pretty Coral Snake and the night after that we found an other one.
On an other morning we drove towards the coast, along the way we saw the car of Matt, John, Mike and Andrew standing next to the road so we stopped.
They saw a Vine Snake crossing the road, but it got away, so we all jumped into the bushes and searched for it, I was at a bush where a 'branch' was moving in a weird way so I grabbed it and had the Vine Snake in my hand, that was a good start of the day!
We drove to the coastal area and searched here for a Thamnophis that looks more like a Nerodia: Thamnophis vallidus.
While we drove next to the most filthy canals on the planet we saw something strange in front of the car, it was a large Neotropical Whipsnake and Andy jumped out of the car and wrestled with it for a while before he could catch it. While we took some photos of it the snake got even with us, it bit me and pulled back hard, I was bleeding and crying but Andy comforted me, gave me a tissue and said I would be fine again. Cheers mate!
At last we found a good part in the canals where it was possible to find the target snake, Andy spotted a small one first and around the same time I was digging a big one out and Michael found a smaller one too.
Back in Alamos we went to our favorite taco place and met with Santiago, a local guy who liked to talk a lot, but even the spanish speaking guys did not understand a word of what he was saying. The tacos were perfect by the way.
In the late afternoon we went to a private property where it was possible to find the Cantil, we went with lots of people and had high hopes, Kenny found a big Mexican West Coast Cribo and while Andy was making a live facebook video he crawled through the vegetation and stumbled upon a big angry Cantil.
This magic Cantil was such a good find and it was healing too, Andy's eye which had a big tree frog jumping in it healed straight away! Great catch Andy!!
Beaded lizard video made by Smetlogik
We are still in Alamos and every day we find more and more, a 'large' gentle Boa joined us one night in the car and one of the last nights I went road cruising with Michael, I really wanted to see a Gila Monster and after finding many Beaded Lizards it was time to drive the parts of the roads more often where there are chances of finding a Gila Monster.
We took the dirt road when it was still light, but after it got dark we went to the other road where we found the usual suspects like Night Snake, Sonoran Lyre Snake, Long-nosed snakes and Saddled Leaf-nosed Snake and after a while we both shouted out GILLLAAAA, I stepped on the brakes and we ran towards the pretty monster as fast as we could and we were just in time before it would have disappeared in the vegetation next to the road.
On the last night we had a dinner all together at our very good hotel, they made a very big bowl of margaritas and the food was great too, after dinner we all went on the group picture, but unfortunately Kenny was sick so he is not in it.
Robert Kreutzer made videos and I must admit, I need a lot of practice before I can be a movie star... but I can highly recommend taking a look at Robert's youtube channel: Smetlogik
This first week in Mexico was already so good, meeting so lots of great people and because we were with so many we saw loads of animals and had a lot of fun. Thanks all for this great week!
Mexico in 60 seconds made by Smetlogik.
Sierra Madre, 26th of august.
After saying goodbye to most we left for our next destination, we wanted to spend some days in the Sierra Madre and look for some higher altitude species, Matt, John and Andrew joined us for the first day only and Nathan and Ross went with us for the full 4 days.
After we went from the main road on to the smaller roads Tim put on his serious face again and told that the rules are changing now, no more smiling at the Mexican ladies anymore...what a stupid new rule...
The route towards the Sierra Madre was beautifull and once you get higher the landscape changes a lot, from desert plaines near the coast to tropical deciduous forest to Pine-Oak forest higher in the mountains.
With still the big team we went to a place in the pine oak forest and searched for snakes, lizards and frogs. John found a really beautiful Knobloch's Mountain kingsnake and the rest of us were not that lucky. Before Matt, John and Andrew left again we first all had dinner together in the best restaurant in town. After dinner Matt, John and Andrew drove out of the Sierra Madre so we said goodbye to them.
Meanwhile Tim was trying to find the local Padre, Father David was living there already for 27 years, so he knew a lot about the area and the people that live there. Father David was also very interested in what we wanted to do there, he offered us to stay at his place in the guesthouse of the church.
We were very happy with this offer, because all the hotels were full because of an off-road event in the area.
Ross and Nathan stayed also with us, so we had a big room with 4 beds, which meant one person was sleeping on the ground.
At the church buildings we also met with father Michael who worked together with father David in the area.
One of the projects of the Padre's was educating the children of the Pima, the indigenous people in that region. Next to normal lessons he also teaches them about the local nature that lives around them and yes, this includes the snakes.
That night we went road cruising and started with a lot of rain, it did not take long before we found the first snake, a pretty Dugès' Earth Snake, a shiny black snake with thin white bands all over his body that is endemic to Mexico. An hour later we stopped for an other snake, again it was shiny black with thin white bands, but the head was totally different, it was Tropidodipsas repleta, an other endemic from Mexico, but this snake was prior to this find only found 2 times and only one time alive, so we were happy with this find.
We met with Nathan and Ross 20 minutes later and they found some good things also, they thought they found Dugès' Earth Snake too, but when I had a look it turned out to be a second living Tropidodipsas repleta of the night. They also found a DOR Black-tailed Rattlesnake and some cool amphibians.
The next morning we went searched again in the forest and Nathan and Ross both found a very beautiful Banded Rock Rattlesnake and at night they found a cute Ridge-nosed Rattlesnake, so we had to try a little harder to get great results also.
The next 3 days and nights were all spend in the area and many great animals were found again, we found Black-tailed Rattlesnakes, a Banded Rock Rattlesnake and to our surprise a Sonoran Coral Snake, Texas Coral Snake or Arizona Coral Snake or was it a Western Coral Snake.......please people, make up your mind about the english name of this snake (Micruroides euryxanthus).
Unfortunately the Splendid Cat-eyed Snake was barely alive when we found it and we saw several Tarahumara Frogs, but they were all just a little bit faster than we were, I think Andy has one on video, but we wanted to have some photos as well.
Than there was the night we visited the professor and his wife, we went inside and were given wine straight away, which we liked off course.. Tim talked to the professor and Andy and I had the pleasure to talk to his son, he was a very nice guy who lives in the States, but now he was visiting his parents in the Sierra Madre and he brought his lovely wife, she was talking a lot and pretty loud too, I think she was American... (Not really sure because within one minute I blocked all the sounds coming from her mouth) We talked about many things and they were really interested about the things we did in the area, but somehow the conversation changed a bit and after a while Andy and I were pushed in a corner and had to try every vegan product in the house.
There is nothing wrong with vegan people, but this one had a black belt in being annoying, bossy and obnoxious.
Nothing wrong with those products too, after all it was free herping energy so we ate everything until it started to hurt, but meanwhile we were given a lecture by the smartest woman on the planet about why we would be better persons if we would change our demon life style into a vegan life for ever.
At one point she almost got into a fight with Andy (who was listening a bit better than I was), I saw his eyes rolling in his head and smoke was coming out of his ears, he made some smooth moves towards the dragons neck for a 'no play' rear naked choke, but the dragon got out and than Andy started talking in Dutch and it sounded like: "ik maak die z...spons kapot" which means something like: "I think I don't really like you anymore and would love to roll you down the highest cliffs on this continent".
Tim also noticed that we'd better leave, so we said goodbye to the professor and his wife, wished all the best for their son and gave fake promises to the vegan dragon (yes, we were a bit afraid..)
During our stay we brought many snakes into the church and the Padre's didn't mind one bit. Thank you Father David and Father Michael for your hospitality, your blessings and the good times we had at your place.
Coahuila, Mexico, 30th of august.
From the Sierra Madre we drove west first and than south into the direction of Torreon, close to it we searched a bit at a river, but without any results, so we went to a big hotel in Torreon and ordered some real food after surviving the whole day on one big ice-cream. It took me about 2 minutes to eat it all and lucky me, Andy has a stomach of a little girl so I had to finish his hamburger too, cheers again mate!!
Now that Im writing this I asked Tim and Andy if they remember any good stories, so they told me about a guy walking around naked in the hotel, but I can't remember anything about that, I only remember weird stuff, not daily hotel room routine...
The next morning Tim and I tried almost anything possible at the breakfast and after that we had to kick Andy out of bed because it was time for real herping porn!
We drove less than an hour to our next spot, it was a place for an other of my favorite lizard species of this trip, the Venerable Collared Lizard, a very beautiful animal that is endemic to Northern Mexico and is only known from a small mountain area in Coahuila.
When we arrived it was already hot, so we started to search, the first lizards we saw were the green with blue spiny lizards, Sceloporus gadsdeni.
Than Tim spotted a lizard on top of a big rock and when we all came closer it was a male of the target lizard. we all got shitty pics of it and when it ran off we did not see it again, so we searched for other ones.
Nobody was lucky on finding an other one, but when I walked by that area again after an hour I spotted the same male in a better position than before, after taking 3 or 4 photos it took off again, very shy lizard.
Tim did see something else really cool, a family of bobcats. When we were all back at the car we tried to find the male again, but without any luck this time, so we decided to move on further north.
Close to Quatro Cienegas 'eagle-eyes-Andy' spotted a lizard on a rock, it was a Collared lizard, the third species of this genus in this trip, but it was not used to 3 stalkers with big cameras, so it ran off a bit too early and left us with shitty photos.
When we reached Quatro Cienegas we got us a hotel first, after that we met with Arthuro, a local herpetologist who went with us for dinner and after that we did some road cruising with him.
Before we went cruising we walked through town to look for a massage, somebody really needed one, but the hotel owner where we asked for this thought he wanted a very special massage with a little more lower tummy rubbing than necessary. This was a funny and a bit weird conversation and maybe it didn’t help that 2 of the 4 persons were laughing out loud..
In the evening we picked up Arthuro, Arthuro was a friendly and helpful man who needed only 3 words to get through a long night of road cruising, his face being non emotional untill we found a snake, than a big smile appeared. We found some reasons for a smile like a Mojave Rattlesnake and some Western Diamond Back’s.
The next day Arthuro took us to a desert area with some springs, I was hoping for some naked swimming fun, but instead we had to search for animals.
Andy found a Coahuilan Box Turtle and we saw many Spiny Softshell Turtles in the water.. Not jumping in was not an option, it was a lot of fun to swim with these meat eating monsters and Andy jumped in too, but he forgot about the naked swimming rule I just made… so he was totally dressed.
In the afternoon we searched a place with lots of stuff to flip and in the area around it Andy found a Desert Tortoise and I flipped a Collared Lizard.
That night we went cruising again and we found several snakes, the next day it was clouded so we decided to search inside some valleys which looked very beautiful, but not much was seen.
In the late afternoon I asked Andy to go with me, because I wanted to find the Texas Horned Lizard……. we drove down the road and Andy yelled: "there is one"… I said: "where??" Andy: "You just ran over it…" NOOOOO
It was a very tiny juvenile and I did kill it, so I was not very happy about that, we did find 2 more. At the last night we went cruising and found the usual stuff, a Jack Rabbit with a love for headlights and a Glossy Snake, which was an other subspecies as the previous found Glossy, so it was a good find.
West Texas, 3rd of september.
The morning started early for us and we first visited the oxxo gasstation for breakfast, than we released the animals and headed for the border, Eagles Pass is where we crossed and after that I was introduced to some Texas highlights like the Stripes gasstation where you can get really good tacos and at the end of the day when we met with Kyle Elmore there was an other food porn introduction for me, Kyle got us all some cowdogs which were very healthy and tasty!
From Alpine we drove to the Davis Mountains with Kyle and we did a combination of cruising and walking by the cuts next to the road.
I jumped in the car with Kyle, it was a racing version of a Toyota corolla and Kyle was a Formula one driver with the same eagle eyes as Andy, or maybe even better since we went twice the speed now. We found some top animals, 2 juvenile Bairds Rat snakes with 65 MPH on a mountain road and while walking we found 3 Speckled Rock Rattlesnakes……(leplep) Tim & Andy did well also, they found a Kingsnake, a Copperhead and a leplep as well.
All these snake finds were celebrated with some Mexican/American/Belgian&Dutch beers and some cowdog leftovers. Perfect!!
The next morning we were hungry, so what do you do than when you are in Texas, yes you go to stripes and eat them tacos till it hurts.
When I was in the gasstation I saw a guy walking in and I was sure I saw hime before which is a bit strange 9000 km away from home, but I was sure, so I said, he man, you look like a herper to me and he laughed and said: yes I am a herper! It was Noah Fields, so we walked to our killer hybrid car to say hi to Tim and Andy as well and we made a plan to herp together that night.
West Texas part 2, 4th of september.
Before we drove to that place we had to release the snakes first, so it was a lot of driving before we reached Terlingua, when we arrived we first checked out the road that is next to the Rio Grande to see the beauty of this area.
Erik also joined us that night and without a doubt it was a good night, we found over 30 Rattlesnakes, most of them being Western Diamond Back’s and around 9 Ornate’s Black-tailed Rattlesnakes, but that was not all, a couple of Trans Pecos Ratsnakes, an Emory's Rat Snake, a reticulated gecko and Noah and his buddies found an other Copperhead.
The next day we wanted to photograph and release the snakes before we started the route to El Paso where we would meet with the king of klaubs, alias Kyle Vargas. We arrived late in the afternoon, just enough time to meet up at the Chico Taco's before Kyle took us to some desert mountains where we searched for leplep again.
Erik found an Ornate Black Tail and Kyle found a beautiful leplep which was in ambush position in between some rocks with an Ornate Tree Lizard as neighbor sitting very close to the head of the snake, we all made some awesome shots of this happening and after that we already had to say goodbye and thanks to Kyle, next time we have to make it a bit longer mate, it was good to finally meet you!
That night we drove all the way to Tucson and found us a hotel there, on the way we found a Prairie Rattlesnake and we had a friendly encounter with the border patrol, I think nobody noticed that I was sleeping on the back seat.
Next morning we had to leave around 07:00 because we all had to catch our flights home, mine was the first so I had to motivate Andy a bit to get in the car on time, but that was done fast, Andy is very awake at night and I am very awake in the morning, that means a good cover for the whole day when herping, but it also means that Andy is hard to wake up and I fall into a coma on the back seat when we cruise very late.
On the way to the airport we saw a very handsome naked man with a pink slurpy in a cabrio, he looked german to me, but that must have been because of his german porn ponytail. Close to the airport we cleaned our killer hybrid and washed off all the traces of all those animals that accidentally ran under our car.
While we cleaned it we noticed that a part of the front fender had a big crack in it and nobody of team herpos knew anything about it, so I was hoping that thrifty did not send me (us) a bill about that. They did not so it was all ok, but who do you think wrecked the car??
At the airport we said goodbye to each other with a nice beer which we all sucked in like a real ssponge.
See you later my friends, this was an awesome adventure, thanks for everything! Lets see what is next for us!
17 Hours later I arrived in the Netherlands and around 19:00 I was home and 2 hours later someone called from work and said: "be prepared to fly to the carribean tomorrow, we will help the people of Sint Maarten after hurricane irma destroyed the island”
So thats what happened. Only 10 good hours home before I was on my way again... Which species are on Sint Maarten..???
This was a herping trip that was beyond all others this far, the amount of species was unbelievable and the places we visited were all special in some way.
Mexico was totally new for me and Im sure this was only the beginning. The best part about was the company, I met so many great people that were all having the same nerdy behavior as I do! So a big thank you to all the people I met during this trip, you made this adventure even better than it already was.
Big thanks for Tim and Andy who were my buddies for the whole trip, it was perfectly organized, we had good food & music and I had a lot of fun with you guys!!
In this report are some photos made by other team members, I tried to put the right names with it, if I failed or forgot, please let me know!
Now that I am writing this we are already looking at a possible next trip, Georgia & Armenia, hopefully I can join! See you soon!
If you have some extra time take a look at Bryan Hughes website about his company that finds solutions for people and rattlesnakes living together in the same area.