Trip Details

Start Time: 3:30 p.m.

Weather: Mostly cloudy with periods of sun. Little wind. High of 77 degrees.

Location: Linn County Iowa

Herpers: Matt Ricklefs

Account by: Matt Ricklefs
Photos by: Matt Ricklefs

Thought of the Day: Resilience.

There had been some good storms in the eastern half of Iowa earlier in the week and now closer to the weekend it was starting to warm up. I went back to a spot that had paid off for several years by having a large board in an open lot in a big sand prairie area. Last year, they decimated the spot and put a couple of houses up. I had gone to another area and had struck out. I decided to go back to the "old" spot that they put the houses up by just to see how it was. They were not quite yet inhabited.
Along with the board in that area was an old piece of solidified poured cement. It was not huge, and just light enough for 1 person to handle fairly well. It sat close to the ground. I had not turned up anything under it for the first year or so and then right at the end before the houses went up I would frequently turn up a Racer. A couple of times it was the same one. I knew this as it had a peculiar kink in its back. It never seemed to have an issue with this and it certainly did not inhibit its locomotion, but it was a tell-tale marking. That was all I found though and it was not frequent.

This piece of cement was all that was left in the area. The actual lot they put the house on was one over from "the spot" but when they cleared the trees they put everything where the board was and really tore up the spot. However, the cement was still there and far enough away that it was still undisturbed. It is right at the end of a small line of trees.

As it was the only thing to check I did so. The resilience of an area can be shown by something as simple as this. There under the cement was a three and a half foot long Bullsnake (Pituophis c. sayi).

I always hoped to find one under this and after all that had happened, there it was. We had often discussed that in a good area it is better to have less cover actually as it concentrates snakes to those areas. The board was a good example. Now, with nothing but this cement left, there was a Bullsnake there. It had settled in over the years so it was certainly set for burrowing snakes like a Bullsnake to think of it as not much more than an extension of its underground passage.

It was cranky. It hissed and carried on the whole time I took pictures. It actually set for a few minutes so it was likely asleep when I found it and may explain why it was less than happy. I would have taken an "in situ" shot, but I had not brought my camera from the car...not expecting to really find anything. I need to remember NOT to do that. I did take some time to get some different pics I was happy with and that kind of told the story (you'll see the cement and a shot of the Bullsnake looking up at me), and then left it go on its way, hissing all the way as well.

I'll check the spot again, but I know it's only a matter of time before it is all gone. I can enjoy it while I can.

Happy herpin'.

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