Trip Details

Location: Ellis, Rooks, Russell counties, Kansas

Conditions: High of 75 degrees, sunny with little or no wind

Time: 9:30 am - 6 pm

Herpers: Chad Whitney, Laura, Austin and Jim Scharosch

We drove into Hays last night at about 11:30 pm. It had been a miserable drive in a downpour for the last few hours. It was graduation weekend and it was a struggle to find a hotel with rooms, but we finally got a room and settled in.

We set out and met up with Chad Whitney at 9:00 am and were at our first location a little while later. It was still cool, about 55 degrees, and were stopped off at the first of a couple of tin sites. Chad flipped a huge section of an old building and caught a Western Coachwhip (Masticophis f. testaceus).

It was a lifer for us Iowans. It was a very cool looking snake and decent sized at around four feet long. We took some pics and went back to tin flipping. A little while later I turned up a Yellow Bellied Racer (Coluber c. flaviventris)

It was about three and a half feet long, and the cool weather helped in convincing him to pose for pictures. As I was taking pictures, Chad turned some tin and set it back down and said, "You are going to want to come over here and see this!" He was right, when he turned the tin back over there was a big Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis).

It was probably three and a half to four feet long. It was laying in the perfect rattlesnake coil. I took some pictures for a while and then, out of nowhere, it completely freaked out, took a wild strike in the general direction of Chad and started to rattle and strike repeatedly. Chad had mentioned how spastic these guys were, and how they had it out for him. I believed him now. It did lead to some cool photos though.

We also found some ringneck snakes and a prairie skink here, which I did not photograph. We also stopped at a second tin site and did not see anything.

We stopped at a bridge over a creek and saw a softshell turtle swimming in the water. Chad made an attempt to catch it, but it vanished.

Around noon the temperature was up to about seventy degrees we went to a large rocky valley. It was a very pretty area, and there were rocks everywhere.

I have turned rocks in the Flint Hills, eastern Kansas and northeast Iowa, but I have never turned rocks like these. They were really thin, but enormous. It was crazy. Having only Chad and I that were able to turn the biggest rocks made it even more difficult.

Collared lizards and ringnecks were everywhere here. A little while into the hike, Chad turned up the first central plains milksnake of the trip. It was a little juvenile, a last years baby and it was getting ready to shed. It was pretty gnarly and didn't really want to pose. None of the photos I took were worth posting. I am sure it would have been a very pretty snake normally.

The next thing I found is one of my favorites a Great Plains Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne olivacea).

I usually see a few each Kansas trip, and this one sat still for a few pictures.

Chad found a second Central Plains Milksnake (Lampropeltis t. gentilis) soon after that.

It was similar to the first one in size, but was much prettier and only a little more cooperative posing. I didn't take much time to photograph it.

A little while later I flipped a baby yellow bellied racer.

I always like to see the baby racers, as I enjoy seeing the variation from young to adult. The racer actually posed nicer than the milksnakes did!

Chad caught a nice sized slender glass lizard in the lowland area of the valley, but it dropped its tail and I didn't stop to take any pictures.

We had found numerous Great Plains Skinks (Eumeces obsoletus) but this one was pretty large and Austin managed to catch it, so I took a shot of him holding it.

I was surprised that when we laid it back down on the rock, it sat and let me a take one last picture before it shot off like a dart.

As we walked along, Laura managed to spot a Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) scrambling amongst the rocks and yuccas.

It was our first live horned lizard in the many years we have been coming to Kansas. It was a cool find and it sat nicely for pics.

A little later I flipped a young Great Plains Rat Snake (Elaphe g. emoryi) under a rock

I had gone a few years without seeing any until last year, but even now that I have seen a bunch of them in the last two years, they still are one of my favorites in Kansas.

We broke for lunch, then decided to go to a prairie rattlesnake den site Chad frequents. We got there about 4:00 pm and the temperature was falling, down to sixty-seven degrees. As we walked along, we turned a few rocks and Chad found another milk snake, this time an adult with a yellow-tan background color. It had wide black bands and the red was reduced.

A few rocks later, while I was still trying to take pictures of the first one, Chad found another milk.

This one had narrower black banding and the more tangerine background color you normally see in adult gentilis. Its red bands were also more pronounced.

I also managed to find a little bigger great plains rat snake, but it was pretty beat up and I had gotten some nice pics of the smaller one so I didn't shoot many pics of this one.

As we walked toward the den site, Laura found another horned lizard. This one was also out walking around.

Chad, Laura and Austin were up on top of the den area and Chad spotted an adult great plains rat snake laying along a rock, I wanted to come up and get an in situ shot, but Chad ended up catching it as it made for cover. It was going into shed, but was still pretty cool.

We didn't see any rattlesnakes at the den site, but I did manage to flip my first milksnake of the trip.

It was a nice sub-adult, probably sixteen inches long. It had a very clean background color and nice wide red bands.

On the way out of the den site, Laura, the horned lizard queen, found her third of the day.

It was about 5:30 pm when we decided to take the gravel roads as we drove back toward Hays. Almost as soon as we turned back onto a main gravel road, I spotted a Western Slender Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus attenuatus) laying in the road.

I managed to catch it without it dropping its tail, so I took a few photos.

Laura and Chad spotted an Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata) crossing the road a ways up from the truck and took off to go catch it. It was one of the biggest ornates I have ever seen. Of course, it wouldn't poke its head out of its shell.

A little farther down the road I saw another glass lizard laying in the road, so I stopped to chase it off the road. As I reached the side of the road, I saw a juvenile Bullsnake (Pituophis c. sayi) laying amongst the grass and rocks.

What are the odds of that? Had that glass lizard not been there I would have never seen that bullsnake. If the glass lizard had been facing the other direction, I would have carried it to the other side of the road and not seen the bullsnake. Funny how things work out sometimes. It was about fifteen inches long and really pretty. It had the more sandy tan background color of the Kansas bullsnakes as opposed to the the more lemon yellow of the Iowa ones I normally see. The saddles were more brown than black as well. It had obviously just eaten something large, as you can see in the photos.

Conditions were good for road crusing, but we didn't see anything else. We went out for Mexican food and a longer nights sleep.

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