Kansas Herp Trip 2002

Sunday, April 28, 2002

Trip Details

Herpers: Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

Location: Barton and Stafford Counties, KS.

Time: Started out at 9:30 am

Temp/Conditions: 60ish degrees in the morning and cool. Fairly cloudy and windy. Afternoon, partly sunny and a bit warmer, closer to 68 degrees.

We had drove to our destination in Barton county through the early evening and did not arrive to our place to camp until late - when it was dark - and windy - and rainy. Setting up camp was not very much fun, but fortunately Boulevard is a fine, Kansas City brewed beverage and is found readily throughout even the smaller towns. We did get set up and settled in and prepared for a long night of wind and rain. The rain was not too bad and only light, but the wind was howling. I slept in the tent. Jim got fed up with the wind, and my snoring - so he says, ended up in the van. Rest assured that both our wives think we are quite nuts to put up with these conditions. But, as the real men we are, we were determined to rough it.

The morning brought overcast skies and cool temps. The delightful sounds of mockingbirds and cardinals filled the air. But, it was not a very good day for herps. We were in a marshy area that was a fly zone for thousands of birds with many different species represented. Not being extremely ornithologically inclined we could appreciate the many birds, but could not identify too many. It was quite impressive however, and they were fun to watch as some dove for up to ten seconds under the water and many sifted the mud in search of prey with an awkward sideways shuffling.

We did not come to find birds however, so again we carried on. We did come across some peculiar sheds that housed some kind of monster (see photo)...

but we carried on anyway.

In the area we were at, the suggested method of herping is to road cruise. This has many advantages and many frustrations. With the right conditions, you can score big no doubt, with little expenditure of energy. However, with less than optimal conditions, you just drive and drive with no immediate results. This is what we encountered on this day. We found one juvenile Northern Water Snake (Nerodia s. sipedon) while road cruising.

Oddly enough, in the area that we were in, these are somewhat uncommon as the Diamondback Water Snake (Nerodia r. rhombifer) is the most common water snake and probably the most common snake in general. We, however, did not find any this day. In Iowa, we by habitat and nature find herps by turning rocks, tin, wood, etc. This carries over to many areas that we have gone to in other states as well. I think any area that has a population, and has stuff to turn, will yield herps. There are many areas like in Kansas that road cruising is the usual way of herping. Not being used to it, it can become frustrating when the conditions are not right as mentioned before. Somewhat discouraged with our luck so far, we headed down to Stafford county and another location. It was starting to get warmer and sunnier so we hoped our luck would change road cruising as this would bring them out more. It was now close to 70 degrees and mostly sunny. To our great disappointment we did find one of our top catches DOR (dead on road). A Western Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus tergeminus) fairly fresh had wandered through the wrong area at the wrong time. The only thing we could take positive from this is the fact that they were in the area and they were out. Further down the same road we encountered another DOR. This time, a Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi). Another sad sign, but obviously this was a good area. We drove down the road along quite a bit further without anything. On the way back through the same area we had been, close to where the Bullsnake was, we found a Red-Ear Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans).

This one was alive, thankfully. We took some pictures and let it go on its way. On the way back to the highway on the same stretch, we found two more Ornate Box Turtles. Both quite alive and active. This was much better. It was getting late by this time, so we decided to call it quits for the day and head down further south to the Gypsum Hills - our next stop. On the way we encountered one more DOR Bullsnake. Overall, a discouraging day. We kept our hopes high for the next day though, as we know not every day is the weather going to cooperate. And we knew we did have a week and this was still just the beginning.

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