Trip Details

Location: Madison county, Iowa

Conditions: Sunny, high in the low 80's

Time: 11:00 am thru 5:00 pm

Herpers: Jeff LeClere, Austin Scharosch, Jim Scharosch

We were sitting watching the Center Point/Urbana High School freshman football game (go Pointers!) on Friday night when my cell phone rang. It was Jeff LeClere, my herping buddy from Minnesota. He was going to be in Iowa over the weekend for a herp swap meet and wanted to know if I wanted to head out for some late season poking around in Madison county. Jeff is one of my favorite guys to herp with, so Austin and I signed on for the trip.

We met Saturday morning at the Hardees as usual. When we got in, Jeff says, "Don't order any food, I've been waiting fifteen minutes." I thought to myself "It can't be that bad." That was a big mistake. They were out of most everything. We ordered some conglomeration of the things they had left on hand and we started our wait. Jeff's food came out, he had ordered it without eggs and it had eggs on it. Some girl came in from the drive thru yelling and cussing how she had been waiting for thirty minutes and her food was missing the eggs. The girl at the drive-thru was crying, the assistant manager was crying. Our food came out after I went to the counter and told the cooks in the back to make it. Even after the forty minutes we waited it was missing stuff. Craziest thing I have ever seen at a fast food place. They did give me my money back.

After that we got out and started turning some rocks. It was about 11:00 am and it was starting to warm up. The first spot we stopped at was a location we had done well at earlier in the year. This time didn't disappoint either. We turned up eight Red Milk Snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum syspila) at this location.

Jeff turned up the first milk. It was dark and had a stump tail. I didn't take any time to shoot good photos.

Jeff also found the second milk. It was a bit bigger and fairly pretty, I don't know why I didn't work harder at getting decent shots of if. I guess I wanted to find snakes more than take pictures at the time. I don't know what I was thinking shooting this thing in full sun.

There were some big rocks that we had to team lift. One of them was a rock where in the spring we had caught a "double", two snakes under one rock. We turned it and this time we got a "triple"! All three of the milks were very nice and big!

Here is Austin with the three milks.

The first milk was a bit on the orange side, and had a cool diminished head pattern.

The second milk had big deep red saddles with a thick ring of black surrounding them.

The third milk had a nice light gray background color with smallish blotches.

Next Jeff turned up a baby milk that I spent no time photographing. It was a pretty little snake though.

After that I found another medium sized milk, this one with wide blotches and a brownish background.

Jeff turned up milk number eight. It was in shed so I didn't take any time shooting pics. It would have been a nice snake out of shed though.

That closed out this spot so we moved on. The second location was also one we had visited in the spring. We had high hopes as we had turned up timbers and some nice milks there in the spring. But after working the area for an hour, all we found were a couple of garter snakes. On the way out, I found this baby milk snake, in shed.

We stopped at a really small spot where we had found a gargantuan ring-neck snake in the spring. Jeff turned up another juvenile milk snake that was in shed. That was it for that spot.

We moved on again to another location we had worked in the spring. We really wanted to get a timber here because we didn't want to get skunked on timbers. We worked the entire ridge without seeing anything, and were about to head out when I spotted a coil of a Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) in a crevice. Jeff pulled it out for pictures. It was a pretty nice snake, though we had to work for a while to get it to sit still for pics.

We headed south to look for some new spots. We had seen a few DOR racers during the day, and we drove past another DOR snake that we could tell wasn't a racer. We couldn't ID as we passed so we turned around to check it out. There were no cars coming, so I pulled into the other lane and looked out the open window. The snake had been on it's back when we passed, it was now back on it's belly. I said, "I think it's alive" and it jerked its head up just as I noticed a car was coming at us in the lane we were blocking. I flipped open the door, grabbed the snake, and chucked it into Jeff's lap, saying "Here, hold this" while dropping the truck into drive and pulling out of the way of the oncoming car. It was a Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon).

We took some pictures of the snake, and it seemed to be fine. We cut it loose and it swam away.

We headed off to check out an area I had not been to before. Jeff said it was a strange spot and he was right. He also said he had found timbers there. The sun was already past so the hillside was in shade. There was moss everywhere and everything was damp. There was very little turnable rock. I couldn't imagine timbers being here, but Jeff said he had found them. I walked to the far end while Austin and Jeff worked the part by the truck. There were a few rocks to turn here, though they didn't look very good. I turned one with my hook, and there laid a nice juvenile timber.

Just proves again that snakes are where you find them, as Mike Pingleton often says.

We topped the trip off with a stop at the local Chinese restaurant. It was one of those meals where after a long day in the field the food all tastes pretty good even though you know if probably really doesn't. It was a fun trip, and looks like it will be my only trip of the fall. I'm glad Jeff called and I'm glad I dropped my weekend chores to make the trip.

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