Trip Details

Start Time: 7:00 p.m.

Weather: Sunny. 70 degrees. Low wind.

Location: Linn County, Iowa

Herpers: Sarah Africa & Matt Ricklefs

Account by: Matt Ricklefs

Thought of the Day: Doubles - That's Funny.

On Sunday we had a Memorial Day get together over at my mom's. It was nice to have the family there and we had fun and good eats. My niece, Sarah, was back from college at ISU. The last time she was here she had asked if we could go herping. We had found the DOR Hognose Snake but nothing else. The importance of this, was that it made us go back and look at an area that had been good in the past, but had been developed. We had recently found MIlks, Bulls and the elusive LIVE Hognose. It is still being developed, but in pockets some areas are still good. Sadly, although remnants will probably remain, this will continue to be housed. As we did not find anything the last time Sarah and I were out we went out again. It was late and was very nice out, but we were losing light fast. We went to this location as it was one of the easier spots to go to.

Earlier in the day Jim had called me and said they stopped into town and went here and found a Bullsnake (Pituophis c. sayi). It was about twenty-four inches long. They only had a camera phone, but did take some phone pics. Jim had called me at 11:57 a.m. to tell me of their find. That was cool. I was hesitant to go back here, but I really wanted Sarah to see a snake and what were the chances we would see one, let alone the same one, in this area.

As luck would have it, we did in fact seem to have found the same snake. This was seven hours later. It was getting ready to shed and I believe this is one of the reasons it was still holding tight. I was glad Sarah and I found a snake - and a cool one! We did take some pics.

My camera had been "acting up" but I had things set up better. This Bullsnake did not want to sit still but I was able to snap a few fair shots. We only had a little time, so we did not take too much time with this one. Besides, it had already been photographed once today! We let it go back where it was and moved on.

As we walked along we noticed a familiar shape in a little roadlet. It was a Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi) about ten inches long. We had been finding a lot of gravid snakes and the day before had found a gravid Brown. This one was also gravid. It stayed put and we got a nice situ shot of it spread on the road as we found it.

I figured since it was on the move, I could get it to sit. Sure enough, with a little prodding it went defensive.

It never did strike, but did coil up nice. We got some decent shots. When done I set her back down in the direction she was going.

We talk a lot about etiquette when uncovering things from shelter (rocks, boards, tin, etc.) but one of the other little observances is to put the critter back the way it was going. When possible and especially if it is around close or actually under something you want to get them sheltered back up. Make sure you put things back first and allow the animal to go under by themselves. Doing the opposite will likely injure or kill the animal. For the Brown Snake tonight, it was in an area that once off the road would allow it shelter in and of itself. I don't really know if it makes a difference to them. I figure if they were headed in a certain direction then they had some instinct or inkling to go that way and I can at least allow that to play out - and so we did.

We checked a few other things and found nothing. The we went to the "hognose tin". Once you find something special or really even anything under something or in an area it is so branded. The hognose tin, the rookery rock (a rock that Jim and Jeff found a Timber and her recently birthed babies under), the back rat spot, etc. That's one of another million things that make herping so much fun. So here we are at the tin. I had told Sarah that I just wanted to show her this spot and of course we did need to turn it. Well whatta know! The darn Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platyrhino) was back.

Now, it was the same time in the evening as we found it before and the conditions were all the same. It was still unexpected. Twice today we had re-caught a snake. When I saw it all I said was, "That's funny". I knew it was the same snake, otherwise I still would have freaked. It was the same color, it was gravid and was about twenty-seven inches long. This time however it kept very still. It was at maximum opaqueness for shedding. I told Sarah to hold the tin and I carefully got some shots exactly in situ as it laid there coiled.

It stayed for a few shots then went on the move. We watched it nose around a little and I grabbed it carefully to see if we could get it to go defensive. It hooded for literally a second as it crawled then bellied up.

It was cool as Sarah had not seen this and it is a pretty cool spectacle of nature, but I was hoping to get some defensive shots. At least it was coiled (I'm sure thanks to it being so blue-eyed now) so getting some top pics was nice. It did get some schmutz in it's mouth so I carefully brushed it back out. It had a bit more of a depression under the tin and, as we did last time, placed it carefully in this little hole and let it be. It was great that Sarah could come out and we actually found some cool things. We commemorated by taking her picture.

Now she can be part of the next generation of responsible field herpers - right Sarah :)

I did talk to Jim as I was writing this and he is going to compare Bullsnakes to make sure it was the same one. We think it is. The Hoggy was definitely the same. An interesting day to say the least. Never a dull moment and often a surprise in the life of a field herper.

Until next time - buenos dias and buenos herpin'.

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