Lost Maples SNA
Gulf Coast Toad
Friday is April Fool's day and I'm on a plane to Texas for a conference. The conference doesn't start until Monday, so I've got a couple days to get out and get in some hiking and herping. I get into Austin late in the afternoon, just enough time to check out Palmetto State Park, southeast of the city. The bad news is that the weather's not the best - partly cloudy with the temps in the mid-fifties and the wind is strong out of the north. I hiked around a few ponds and along the riverbank, but only managed to turn up a few Redeared Sliders and one very chilled little Gulf Coast Toad, Bufo nebulifer. At sunset I turned my rental car west and headed towards Kerrville.
Stayed in Kerrville and awoke to a cool 36F! Ouch. I was hoping for a little warmer day. At least the sun was out. I dawdled over an omelet at the IHOP, letting things warm up a bit before heading over to Lost Maples.
Lost Maples State Natural Area turned out to be a place of great beauty. The bigtooth maples were left behind in these deep canyons when the last glaciers retreated twelve thousand years ago. I started a five mile hike around the east trail; temperature was now 60F. I kept one eye on the ground for herps and the other in the trees and bushes - this was good warbler country. Sure enough, I got two Golden-Cheeks right off the bat - cool! Can't get those back home in Illinois.
Finally some lizard activity at 1030 - large ground Skink darting in some leaf litter. I stopped to watch it for a moment and realized that there were more lizards about. Twenty minutes later I had counted at least nine Scincella in a patch of leaves maybe eight feet across and a yard deep. I had to wonder how many Ground Skinks lived on the mountain I was hiking up - ten thousand? These have to be the most numerous lizard in the eastern half of the U.S. - they are everywhere.
I made a few stops on the way up, checking out a number of promising rock ledges, but coming up empty-handed. I made it up to the top and hiked along the rimrock, spotting several Texas Spiny Lizards on the way, but wasn't able to get close.
By late afternoon I had gotten in about eight miles of hiking, but the herps, in particular the lizards, were unusually scarce. Given the beautiful vegetation and rock formations, and a sky full of buzzards and hawks and other birds, I had little to complain about. After a rest and a bite I decided to head out further west to Loma Alta, just to see what might be on the road or the roadside in the evening. I stopped on two occasions to flip a couple small boards and a piece of metal with nothing more to show for it than another Texas Spiny Lizard.
I reached 277 around six. The land was considerably greener than I remembered on my last visit this way, and there was standing water in several places along the roadside. I stopped to investigate one ditch and scared up a few Rio Grande Leopard Frogs, along with one good-sized egg mass.
I cruised up and down 277 into the night, keeping my eyes on the roadsides, but nothing presented itself. No DORs either; admittedly, this was my first March visit to the area and I had no idea what might be out and about this time of year.
A late dinner in Sonora and then I headed back east. No vacancies in any motels in Kerrville and the surrounding towns, so I ended up sleeping in my car near Fredericksburg. Ain't herping fun? Lost Maples was a beautiful place and I hope to return sometime and see more of the place.
Gulf Coast Toad (Bufo nebulifer)
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