Trip Details

Location: Jackson and Dubuque counties, Iowa

Weather: 74 degrees, partly cloudy, low humidity

Time: 2:00 p.m.

Herpers: Jim Scharosch

Account by: Jim Scharosch

Photos by: Jim Scharosch

Headed up to Jackson county to visit a site that we spend a lot of time at. It is the location of the Herpjournal Habitat Restoration Project. It is one of my favorite places to go, and I like to close out each season with a visit there if at all possible. I also wanted to see some timbers before winter, and this site rarely disappoints in that regard.

I started at the south den. I searched my way through all of the outcrops on the way up the hill without seeing any snakes. That didn't surprise me as I expected them to be at the den by now.

I got up to the den and there they were. It looked like two Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) hanging out in the crevice.

I zoomed in a bit and took another shot, and could see that there was actually a third timber further back in the crevice.

The one on the right was a fairly large snake, probably at least three feet. The other two were smaller, but still adults. I took my photos from a distance and didn't go closer and shine the crevices to see if there were any more.

That was all I saw at the south den, but the population at that den is smaller and three is a good number there. I thought that boded well for the north den.

I approached the north den and saw this Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) in the leaf litter at my feet. I don't get many in-situ photos of garters.

I scanned the crevice and could see a couple of timbers under the ledge. I'm pretty sure there were three visible.

As I manuvered to get a little closer for a better photo, I saw another small timber under a nearby rock.

I like this photo, and it's a shot I never could have gotten with my old camera.

Here is a shot of one of the snakes that was under the ledge. Lighting is always difficult in these shots, and I was still shooting from a distance to minimize disturbance.

These two are babies from this year. That is five years in a row that we have documented babies at the north den. Nice to see that there has been solid recruitment at this den.

I worked my way up to the top side of the den and found another timber in a crevice.

Also this one laying on a ledge.

As I was leaving the area I stopped to take a picture of the massive swarm of box elder bugs on the rockface.

Yeah, that's a timber in the shadows on that ledge.

I decided to see if I could turn up a milksnake under a line of rocks that is near the den. It is the milksnake hotspot for this portion of the property. I didn't flip a milk, but I did flip another timber!

This was the only timber that was not right on the den. It was within thirty feet of the den and on it's way over there for sure.

Other than the two babies and the three snakes at the south den, all of the timbers were in the young adult size class, about two feet long. That should be a good sign for future recruitment.

On the way home I saw a Brown Snake (Storeia dekayii) on the road.

If you were wondering why the report also mentions Dubuque County, it is because I also found a Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum) crossing the road in that county.

I don't find milks on the road very often, so that was a nice surprise. It was a really clean looking eighteen inch long snake.

The weather looks good for this weekend, so I'm hoping to get one more post in this year. If not, see ya next year!!

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