Trip Details

Herpers - Jeff LeClere, Mike Pingleton, Marty Whalen, Doug and Daniel Mills, Tracy Mitchell, Austin, Laura and Jim Scharosch

Location: Union County, Illinois.

Start Time: 11:00 am

Weather: Sunny. Hazy, 65 early, cloudy, rainy and 60 in the afternoon

Jeff, Austin, Laura and I endured the long drive down to southern Illinois Thursday after work. It is never fun driving a long trip like that after working all day, but it does maximize the herping time over these three-day long weekend trips. We got up late Friday morning, as the temperature was such that there was no need to get out too early. We were supposed to meet Mike and the group from Champaign at 10:30 am out at the snake road. They ran into some traffic problems and were delayed a while. We decided to walk around some, so we headed up the bluff to look around, staying near enough to the designated meeting area to keep an eye out for them. When we got up there, I spotted a small Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon p. leucostoma) on the trail.

I took a quick photo, and it decided to take off for cover. Not having a hook or tongs, there wasn't much I could do to slow it down.

This was only my second trip to the snake road, but it was my first trip here with the new "no snake hooks or tongs" rule. At the risk of pissing people off, I have to say that I think it is a pretty dumb rule. I don't know what kind of problems they are having at the snake road that this rule is supposed to address, but whatever the problem, this rule won't solve it. If they are having a problem with people collecting, the rule won't keep people bent on collecting from bagging things up. If they don't want people to harass the snakes for photographs, they still will do that as well. People will carry a walking stick, or pick up the nearest tree branch in an effort to get that cottonmouth to pose for a picture. The only thing the rule will do is make it more difficult and dangerous for both the snake and the photographer. It seems like a "we have to do something, even if it doesn't work" kind of rule.

We went back down to the parking area to wait for the Champaign group. As we waited, a charter bus pulled in and about forty people piled out. They were architecture students from a local community college. We all looked at each other and began to question what kind of day this was going to be. Not long after, Mike, Marty and Tracy pulled in. After seeing the bus, we made a decision to drive to the other end of the road and try our luck away from the bus load of kids. We drove, Mike called the other car that was to meet us and told them of the change in plans. Soon we were joined by Doug Mills and his son Daniel. It was about 12:30 pm when we finally were ready to start walking.

I found an eight inch long Northern Ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii) under a log a little ways down the road.

I don't have many good ringneck pictures, so I took a little time and shot some photos. One thing we all commented on was how dry it was. It looked like the area needed a heavy dose of rain. The ground under the logs and rocks was cracked and dry.

I found a Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum) under one of those dry logs.

We walked on, and at the first place where the water comes up to the road, we spotted a baby Cottonmouth.

It posed a little nicer for photos than the one we encountered on the bluff top an hour earlier.

A little farther along, Mike called that he had found a cottonmouth at the base of the bluff, and a second later, Austin spotted a huge one on the road side. None of us got to see the one Mike found, as it slipped back into the bluff as we were photographing the large one on the road.

It was probably all of three feet long, and was very dark in coloration. It looked like a grizzled veteran of the swamps.

Jeff found an Central Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens louisianensis) eft. It was pretty tiny.

We also found a couple of Fowler's Toads (Bufo woodhousii fowlerii)

and a Dwarf American Toad (Bufo americanus charlesmithi)

Gotta keep that journal up to date, Jeff!

One of the things I wanted to find on this trip was a Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus). I hadn't finished saying this but a few minutes ago, when Jeff found a tiny juvenile along the road side.

Had Jeff not stopped to look under a roadside log and then walked back up to the road in exactly the right spot, we never would have seen it. It was only about five inches long. It would not pose for a decent photo, no matter how hard I tried to work with it.

At about 2:30 pm the weather started to get kinda crappy. It got cloudy and started to drizzle. It was bad enough that I was having trouble finding enough light to take photos. We had reached the area where salamanders were most common, and we started to turn them up with regularity. We found a Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

A bunch of Longtail Salamanders (Eurycea longicauda melanopleura)

More Central Newt efts

and some Cave Salamanders (Eurycea lucifuga) that I never got a decent picture of.

We spotted some Green Tree Frogs (Hyla cinerea) sitting on the reeds along the waters edge.

This one sat nice and still, so I took some pics.

We went later to the area where we encountered the bluff falling Cottonmouth in the spring. We saw a ton of Cave and Longtail salamanders in this area. You could shine your flashlight into the cracks in the bluff side and see salamanders looking back out at you. It was a pretty cool area, and Austin and Laura really enjoyed seeing it.

That ended the day for us, and we got back to the vehicles.

Doug and Daniel had to go, so we said our goodbyes and they took off for Champaign. Jeff and the Champaign guys headed for the campground and we went to Anna to our hotel room.

That night the guys found a Black Rat snake (Elaphe o. obsoleta) crossing the road near the campground. It was a nice find, since it ended up being the only one of the trip.

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