Trip Details

Location: Linn County, Iowa

Conditions: High of about 75 degrees, sunny

Time: 10:00 am - 5:30 pm

Herpers: Jeff LeClere, Dāv Kaufman, Jim Scharosch

Joining for parts of the day: Austin Scharosch, Matt Ricklefs

While we were in Illinois, I had a message from Laura that Jeff LeClere and Dāv Kaufman were in Iowa and wanted to know if we could get together for some herping. We arranged to meet at my house Monday morning and they showed up around 9:00 am. Austin was busy in the afternoon, but he came along for our first stop at the little rock pile we had found milksnakes at earlier this spring.

We arrived a few minutes later, and I said "That rock is where Austin found two milks last week, they were about this big" and I stretched out my hands to show the length and Austin says, "About like this", and held up a milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum) he had just found under a rock about two feet from the one I had just pointed out. It was about eighteen inches long.

I saw a snake move through the grass and Jeff called "snake" about the time I was snagging another milksnake. This one was quite a bit bigger at about thirty inches. It also was very brown with little of the deep red coloration we usually see from this area. It was a strange looking milksnake, some might say ugly, but I thought it was pretty cool.

Dāv then caught another milk that was going into shed. It was about the same size as the one Austin caught. Then Austin caught another smaller milk. It ended up these two were recaptures from our trips the previous week. One of them had just shed, so I took some photos of it.

Not a bad start, four milksnakes in about ten minutes.

Next we walked a large prairie field near the rock pile. Jeff saw a garter snake but was unable to catch it. That was all we saw here. This was the end of the day for Austin as he had afternoon plans.

Next we went to a nearby quarry. It was a spot that was really good a long time ago, but they had started working the quarry a lot harder a few years ago and I had quit going there. We worked a west facing ridge of relatively undisturbed rock and after not seeing anything under the first hundred rocks, I found a juvenile milksnake. It was a last year's baby.

A little while later Jeff found a two foot long Racer (Coluber constrictor) that still showed a tiny bit of it's juvenile patterning behind the head.

It was going into shed, which was too bad as it has been a while since I had seen a racer from this area and I wanted to see what the belly coloration was like. What I could see through the blue looked pretty white.

We finished off the west slope and went to look at a lower part of the quarry. Jeff fell behind Dāv and I as we went down this long hill. We were all the way at the bottom of the hill when Jeff called out that he had found a three foot long Fox Snake (Elaphe vulpina). I said to Dāv, "No we have to walk all the way back up the hill", and Dāv says, "Not if I find a fox snake under this rock", which he proceeds to flip and pull out a two and a half foot long fox snake. This was the first of three times this day that Dāv would "call his shot".

Both fox snakes were pretty rough, especially the one Jeff found. It had a really bad shed stuck on, especially around its head and appeared to have scale infections. The one Dāv found was in better shape but was about ready to shed also. Life is rough for these snakes in this quarry. Much of the quarry is very dry, and they are still blasting and moving a lot of rock so the whole area is very dusty. I didn't take much time to photograph these two fox snakes.

We left the quarry and headed to a local natural area. Along the way we stopped at a bridge over a creek to check some of the rocks at the base of the bridge. Jeff and I were checking the rocks and Dāv spotted a pair of Northern Water Snakes (Nerodia sipedon) breeding on top of a snag in the creek.

It was in a perfect location to be able to photograph them from the bridge above, and I shot a little video too.

It was cool to see, and the second year in a row I have gotten to see nerodia breeding.

We went to the natural area hoping to see a hognose snake, but my jinx is strong and we didn't see any snakes there. The racerunners were scurrying all over the place. One racerunner that was out in the open was startled so bad by my approach that it dropped its tail before it took off running. I never even attempted to catch it and dropped its tail for no reason. I got to see my second reptile love scene of the day as I watched a male racerunner chase a female around for a while, then catch her and attempt to breed. I don't know if they ever copulated, as I was a little to far away to really tell and I didn't want to interrupt. A few seconds later the female took off, and I snuck up and managed to grab the male. I didn't take any pictures and turned him loose to go chase after the female.

After a quick Dairy Queen lunch and a satisfying Jeff and Dāv's cravings for strawberry milkshakes (not milksnakes) we swung by and picked up Matt Ricklefs for our next stop. We went to an area where we find bullsnakes fairly regularly. As we worked our way along, turning the artificial cover, Dāv says, "There will be a bullsnake under this". He flips it, I look over and notice a last years baby Bullsnake (Pituophis c. sayi) laying there.

Dāv was expecting a big snake and pretty much missed seeing the twelve inch snake laying there in a small coil.

A couple minutes later I flipped a ten inch long Brown Snake (Storeria dekayii). It wouldn't sit still for photos at all, thus this single crappy picture.

A couple minutes later, Dāv says "There will be a garter snake under this" and turns it and grabs a fourteen inch long garter snake. That was the last of Dāv's three "called shots" for the day. A few more garter snakes rounded out the stop.

After some fruitless driving around, we dropped Matt off at his house and headed back up to my house. We decided to make one last stop at a rockpile in a ditch near my house. This is the same pile where Austin, Matt and I had found a large fox snake the weekend previous. The rock it was under was a two man rock, so we went there first and Dāv and I turned the rock and there were two large adult garters and a fox snake under it.

The fox snake was smaller, at about three feet, and lighter colored than the one from the week before and it also appeared to be a male. Hopefully he will hook up with that big female and produce some eggs this year! We also found about eight other garter snakes.

I had a lot of fun with Jeff and Dāv, and was glad Matt and Austin could each join us for a small section of the trip. We are making arrangements for a trip up to Minnesota yet this spring for another last ditch attempt to snap my Heterodon curse!

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