photo by Matt Ricklefs

Trip Details

Iowa Herpalooza - Day 4

Start Time: 10:30 a.m.

Weather: Sunny. Start temp around 74 degrees. Low wind.

Location: Jackson County, Iowa

Herpers: Mike Pingleton, Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

Account by: Matt Ricklefs

Photos by: Jim Scharosch unless noted otherwise

Thought of the Day: Good friends, good herpin' and the close of another spring

Our last day of Iowa Herpalooza 2007. We had been very fortunate weather wise and had done well overall. We started our last day with a sense of hope and relief. It’s great to be out, but it’s also nice to get settled back in home. Unfortunately that also means work is right around the corner.

Mike, Jim and I had relived day three the previous evening in Jim's self made and very nice gazebo at home while enjoying a few Killian's. We had recalled our early days and what got us into this crazy hobby. You make your own path, but there are many who help out at one time or another. So, hereâ??s to all the people that have mentored, coached, inspired or just were along for the ride! You make some great relationships through herping and meet some very fine people. Remember this as you meet people. How are you representing yourself and how do others do the same? We all know the importance of trust in this hobby/profession. What we share and what we learn is golden and should not be taken lightly. OK, that's enough of the pep talk. Let's get to the herpin'!!

We hit some tin and pulled up a double for Ring-Neck Snakes (Diadophis punctatus arnyi) and one garter.

photo by Matt Ricklefs

That was all and we moved on up the hill.

This spot is Jim and my proving ground for Timbers. We had been coming to this location since the mid 1980's. It has changed quite a bit. It is, fortunately, still a good area. We planned to work the hill side pretty good. We often start at different areas depending on time, but this day we started at the beginning and pushed on through.

Our first find up on the hill was a nice Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum).

This was again a similar size to many we found at about seventeen inches. This one did have good color. We had done very well for Milk Snakes on this trip and had hit a wide diversity. That’s a fun thing about Milk Snakes. After a few pics we placed it back to go under the rock and headed out.

We had gone a little ways and we spotted our prize, the Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus). Toward the bottom of the hillside in a nice open area was a large turnable rock. This particular Timber was sitting with part of its coils out and part under the rock.

photo by Matt Ricklefs

We all moved into place. We did get some situ shots as it seemed to feel somewhat secure being partly covered. After a few pics we moved in. At this it did go under more. We prepared ourselves. Jim and Mike were in front and I poised myself to uncover the snake. I had thought that there was a chance there was another one as it was a good area and sometimes when one is around there are other. Something to remember!! Sure enough, when ready and when I turned the rock we found not one but TWO Timbers. A double that we all got to do together. Now of course they didn't sit two long and we needed to scramble a bit to make sure we secured both. They were both similar in size at about thirty-six inches. They were in good shape. The one that was all the way under the rock was very dirty and appeared to have just come out of hibernation. They were male and female and we had seen pairs of snakes under the same rock a few other times on this trip.

The first timber

The second timber

photos by Matt Ricklefs

Now, what to do with two Timber we want to get pics of? Well, in this case we opted for my backpack to secure one until picture time. This way we could just focus on one. It is a little safer this way, even with three people. We wrangled the one we saw first and had backpacked the one further under the rock. Before starting we did replace the rock they were under as we found it. There are two main reasons for this. One, it is proper etiquette. You always put stuff back as you find it. Two, when we finished with this one, we could put it back under and work with the second Timber. This is exactly what we did. At the same time also we had uncovered another juvenile Milk also.

photos by Matt Ricklefs

It was blue eyed. I got some pics of that as Jim and Mike worked with the first Timber. When done with the Milk and after they saw it, I put it back and also worked with the Timber. When done we placed it to go back under where it was and carefully got back out the second Timber. We worked with this one for a while and put it back with the other one. The rock they were under was turnable, so we would have checked it. We did ponder that if the one all the way under was not there if the one partially out would still be sunning like that or all under. The mysteries of herping!

Moving on we encountered a find that we had been hoping to see. It was another Timber, but different. Jim and I have noticed in this particular area that there is a color variation that seems to exclude the yellow and the snakes have little or no dorsal stripe, and are a mix of only blacks, whites and greys. They also have steel bluish eyes and often bluish grey around the lower jaw. They are quite stunning.

We had caught one particular one in back to back years a while ago. We know it was the same snake as it has a specific chevron blotch and other markings for reference. After we returned from this trip we made comparisons and this one was a different snake, but with the same coloration. We do not know if this is a just a color phase or if it is a genetic mutation (perhaps anerythristic or just having the yellow absent). We took a fair amount of time documenting this one, but in looking back we probably should have spent more time with this.

photo by Matt Ricklefs

We will continue to monitor this area and the differences of the Timbers there. This one was a little smaller than the first two at about twenty-six inches.

That was to be the last find of the day. It was a great four days and it was great to get out with everyone. This will be the last major spring trip, however Jim and I have a few potential projects over the summer. We also look forward to a few potential major trips in the fall.

Hope you liked the post and as always – HAPPY HERPIN’!!!

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