Trip Details

Location: Benton County, Iowa

Weather: 64 degrees, partly cloudy, NW wind @ 17 mph

Time: 4:30

Herpers: Jim Scharosch

Account by: Jim Scharosch

Photos by: Jim Scharosch

I went to a spot that has been my first local trip of the season for the last few years. It was my first local trip again this year. It’s not far from my house and has produced pretty well the last few years. I didn’t expect much as it is still early in the year. I figured garter snakes and brown snakes would be about all that would be up this early.

As expected, I quickly found an Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis).

This was a male, probably fourteen inches in length. Along the hillside I ended up finding five more garter snakes. They were all small males like the first.

Also as expected, it didn’t take long to find a Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi).

It was typical size of an adult brown snake at around ten inches in length. Seven more similarly sized brown snakes were found in total, including three under one small rock.

The next find wasn’t expected at all. I turned a fist sized rock at the top of the hill and saw another garter snake, but took a second look because it looked bit different. Upon further inspection, I realized it was a juvenile Western Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus).

I was excited to see the ribbon snake as I had never seen one here before. Also, I had never seen one this close to home. It was about fourteen inches long. When I got home and checked Jeff LeClere’s new field guide to the herps of Iowa (an excellent book, by the way) I realized he doesn’t have a dot on Benton County for ribbon snakes. Looks like a county record! Time to get the Sharpie out and add a dot to the book! Okay, maybe I won't deface my new book...

I checked the rest of the hillside and didn’t see much more, though I did find a Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens) under a rock.

I snapped a pic since I don’t often find them under rocks and because the frog decided to sit still for me.

That was it for the trip. I went out expecting just to be happy to get out in the sun and see a few common early spring herps, but I ended up with a really cool find and a county record. You just never know. Great start to the local season too!

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