Friday, March 09, 2007

I haven’t been posting for a while. I had tried to stretch out the last of my summer herping trips, but there really wasn’t a lot in there to work with, so I abandoned the post.

The weather is starting to warm up a little, and I might try to find some salamanders this weekend as the temperatures make it up into the 50s. If it were sunny I’d hope for snakes, but the forecast calls for cloudy and maybe some rain, and that says redback (Plethodon cinereus) more than snake. [though a comment left on the last post has given me the urge to check some brown snake spots]

The following two or three weekends should be hot for amphibians: spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculata) will probably be on the move, and the chorus frogs (Pseudacris feriarum kalmi), spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer), and wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) should be out breeding, though we might have already missed the big wood frog breeding session.

I’ll miss the initial warm-up, but I’ve got a good excuse: we’re going to Mexico! We’ve got a vacation planned for Puebla, a city two and a half hours southeast of Mexico City that I never managed to visit while living and traveling in Mexico in the past. I think the city itself is worth a few days of tourism, but there are a lot of fun day trips to do, and we’re also planning on spending a few days up in the Sierra Norte, mountains in the north of the state of Puebla.

The city of Puebla is in high-elevation arid country, and the herping forecast for the surrounding area is not great, since the weather looks kind of dry. I’ve been watching the weather forecasts for Puebla, and there are a few days here and there with some possibility of rain, but I’m not optimistic.

The Sierra Norte is lush, coffee growing country, though, and a survey of the herps of the region reported that March is a good month for herping with over 40 species recorded. I’m a little nervous about the unfamiliar venomous species, particularly a couple coral snake species. I don't want to reflexively grab the wrong thing, but I'll use my snake hook as much as possible. I figure I’ll catch whatever I can and work on the identifications once we’re back.

I’d like to thank Tim Burkhardt for his good advice and research help already. I say ‘already’ because I’m sure I’ll be bugging him for help to identify my finds once we’re back. Tim has a website called Mexico Herpetology (, on which he’s done an amazing job of posting photos, natural history information, and range maps for hundreds of Mexican amphibians and reptiles.

Of course I need to point out the strong possibility that we’ll find nothing but the active lizards any tourist or hiker would see. That’s what happened in Brazil, but I think we can do better in Mexico. In Mexico I speak the language, and I’m fully planning to hire some local kids to help me find critters. It might cost a few pesos, but no one knows how to find reptiles and amphibians better than the local 10 year old boys.