Trip Details

Location: Franklin and Miami counties, Kansas


Time: 9:30 am - 6:30 pm

Herpers: Austin, Laura and Jim Scharosch

We started the day at about 9:30 am at an area where we had found timber rattlesnakes in the past. It was a cool area and I had been looking forward to visiting it again. It was still pretty cool, but was warming up and the sun was shining. You could tell it was going to be a nice day. As we started to move around the open hillside, Laura found an adult Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata).

Box turtles are often difficult to get a decent picture of. They either clam up inside their shell, or walk away fast enough you can't get a decent focus on them. This one was a runner.

We checked some rocks and found numerous great plains skinks. Eventually, Laura found a two foot long Red Milk Snake (Lampropeltis t. syspila).

It was her first milk snake of the trip. It had nice dark red blotches with wide black edging. The head was almost all black, and the white was a little dirty. It wasn't the prettiest milk snake I had ever seen, but I think they are all cool. This one also had a couple of abberant red blotches that were kind of interesting.

A little farther down, I found another milk snake.

This one was pretty awesome. The red was very bright and the head had very little black on it. The red blotches at the front end of the snake were very wide and narrowed some at the mid section with very narrow black edging. The white background was very clean. It was one of those snakes that is very difficult to put back in the rock pile after you are done taking pictures.

At about 10:30 am we were on the edge of the forested area of this location. It was then that we discovered a Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus).

It was about two and a half feet long and very chunky. It posed nicely in it's coil and showed very little concern that we were there taking pictures.

At some point it decided it had had enough, and with no aggressive movements or even the slightest hint of rattling, it started to head over to hide under a massive rock that Austin was standing on. I turned on the video recording setting on my camera and recorded it as it slipped under the cover of the big rock. When it got almost all the way under the rock, a rat shot out from the other side of the rock and a few seconds later another one came shooting out from the other side. Apparently they were smart enough to avoid this predator! On the video you can hear Laura yelp when the first rat ran out right by her feet.

We didn't see anything else here except a few skinks and ringnecks. We didn't stay long though, we left at 11:45 am, as we had some stuff we had to take care of in town.

We got back out to herping at about 1:15 pm. We hit a variety of places, I'm not going to break things down location by location. Following is what we found as the day progressed.

I found a Great Plains Rat Snake (Elaphe g. emoryii) buried in the grass alongside a rock. It was about three feet long and going into a shed.

I walked along a rock face, flipping rocks and Laura yelled out that she found something. In the cracks of rocks was a nice sized Bullsnake (Pituophis c. sayi).

I had walked right past it. It was probably four and a half feet long, and very stout. It never bit or hissed, and didn't sit for photos at all.

Next, I found a tiny narrowmouth toad and then a few feet later I found two more red milk snakes under a rock cap on a small rock face. One had a high blotch count, with many smallish red blotches and wide black edging.

The other had more red on the head and much wider blotches. The red was a little dirty, but it was still a pretty cool looking snake. Both snakes were about twenty inches long.

Here is a photo of the two together

After taking pictures, when I went to put the milks back, I found another great plains rat snake. It was about two feet long. It had a large meal in it's belly.

Next Austin found his first "real" herp of the trip when he flipped a great plains rat snake of his own.

It was about the same size as the one I had just found. It was cool though since he was getting kinda depressed about not finding stuff himself.

A little while later, Laura turned a big rock and Austin grabbed a Plains Garter Snake (Thamnophis s. parietalis).

It was very cranky, and flattened out its body and head in a cool defensive posture. It bit Austin on the wrist and then I took it from him and it bit me on the hand. Those guys bite pretty hard, and it was a big snake at about two and a half feet long. The pictures don't do justice to how flattened out the snake was when I was holding it.

Next I found another great plains rat snake.

It was pretty much the same size as the last two we had found. It is funny how for so long I went without seeing these snakes and now I hardly think about them when I find them.

We commented on how we had not seen any kingsnakes on this trip and a couple minutes later, Laura found this last year's hatch baby Speckled Kingsnake (Lampropeltis g. holbrooki).

It was about ten inches long. I like seeing the baby kings when they still have the more chain-like pattern on the back. Austin also caught his second slender glass lizard of the trip, but I didn't take any photos.

The last spot we stopped was a quarry we had visited with Chad, Matt and Brandon last year.

We had seen many Collared Lizards (Crotaphytus collaris) on the trip, but I hadn't stopped to take a photo of any.

This one posed and let me get close enough to take a picture. We saw a bunch more at this site.

We found a couple of Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix) right along the road, but didn't work very hard to get photos. This one was shedding, and sat still for one picture before taking off.

Austin found another garter snake, but I didn't take any pictures.

Then Austin flipped the first "hot" of his herping career. It was a cool looking, chocolate brown copperhead.

It was about fourteen inches long, and not as orange as the ones we had found further west.

Not more than ten feet further along, I turned a rock and saw the bright banana peel-like yellow of a subadult speckled king.

I was very happy to see this, as we had not seen any except the baby we had found an hour earlier. It was about 18 inches long and really pretty. It had a little of the banding that is typical of the kingsnakes of eastern Kansas.

We worked our way around the back of the quarry and found another copperhead and various ringnecks and lizards. Toward the end of the rock line I found a ground skink, but I was getting tired enough I decided not to try to take pictures of the obviously non-cooperative lizard.

We hiked back to the truck and I remembered how many nice rocks lined the ditch on the way back to the highway. Laura and Austin were sick of rock flipping by now and rolled their eyes when I said I wanted to flip the rocks on the way back to the highway. I told them to follow along side of me with the truck as I turned the rocks. I had an obsessive need now to turn every last rock, driven both by being tired and by the fact that they both thought I was out of my mind. I think someone mentioned, something like "Let's go, there's nothing here" and I answered, "I am going to turn all the rocks from here to that last big rock, that will be the last rock no matter what", as I pointed to a rock about fifteen feet away. I turned all the rocks, went to that last rock, turned it and pulled out a three foot speckled kingsnake.

Like the smaller one we had found earlier, it was very pretty, without much apparent banding in the speckles.

I was happy to have found the adult, and once again, I got to hit Austin with the "Leave No Stone Unturned" lesson. I also remember saying, "We should go home now and end the trip by catching something under our last rock, there's no way that can happen tomorrow too..."

We headed back to town for some awesome Mexican food, a couple of margaritas and a good nights sleep.

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