San Diego County, March 2003

Western Fence Lizard.

South towards Palm Springs Canyon


Low dark clouds in the Lagunas.

Algodones Dunes

Place and Time: March 15th-16th, 2003.  Various locations in San Diego Co., California.

Weather: Unseasonably cool and wet at various times and places.

My plane landed in a torrential downpour, and it continued to rain throughout the night.  I drove east to get out of town and stayed at a small town up in the Laguna Mountains.  Drove down to the lower foothills the next morning.  It was cold, in the mid-forties at 8am, and the ground and all vegetation were saturated.  I found a roadside junkpile along I-10 and managed to turn up two Western Fence Lizards under tar paper.  They were addled from the cold and could not move while I posed them for pictures.

I decided to try my luck in the low desert, and drove down to Ocotillo, and then to Anza Borrego.  I hiked down towards a place called Palm Springs Canyon, since my rental car could not handle the road.  I walked for several hours, checking out numerous rock piles along the way.  It was sunny but very windy and the temps never reached past 65F.  I managed to see an old acquaintance - the Desert Sideblotched Lizard, and a number of whiptails I couldn't identify.  I managed to drop my wide angle lens somewhere along the way, and never found it, despite following my footprints all the way back out...

Lacking any proper sleep, I ran out of gas before I reached the springs, and turned around and headed back.  I observed a male Phainopepla in some low shrubs, calling for a mate.  That was the highlight of the day!

I drove onwards and checked out a number of roadside rockpiles and arroyos, without any success.  I decided to head back towards the Lagunas - and stay at the motel I had used the night before.  In the morning I would look for Ensatinas and any other montane creature.

I woke to find four inches of snow on my car!  Now what?  I was not equipped for this kind of weather.  I decided I would head back to the low desert, out to the Algodones Dunes area, which I was eager to see.

The low desert was still in the grip of a strong, cool wind.  I made it out to the Dunes, which were very impressive, and decided to try my luck in the mountains to the northeast.  I hiked up a number of small hills in the Chocolate Mountains, but could not stir up as much as an Uta.  There was a lot of talus to check and I diligently spent the afternoon raising rock, but to no avail.  Heading west again from the Chocolates, I came across a fenced area with signs indicating it was a Desert Tortoise preserve.  There would be no off-road vehicles to endanger the tortoises within.

Sadly, it was time for me to head back to San Diego and my meetings there.  I've got to get back out that way during a better time of year - March and November haven't been very productive!

Herp Species Observed:

Desert Sideblotched Lizard - Uta stansburiana stejnegeri
Western Fence Lizard -
Sceloporus occidentalis


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