Trip Details

Location: Delaware and Linn Counties, Iowa

Weather: 66 degrees, cloudy and windy early, 75 degrees, mostly sunny late

Time: 10:30 a.m.

Herpers: Don Becker and Jim Scharosch

Account by: Jim Scharosch

Photos by: Jim Scharosch except where noted

Don and I wanted to get out for a run around Linn County, but we decided to swing up to a roadside den site that we discovered last year. It was cloudy and still a little bit cool, the rocks were not at all warm to the touch as we worked through the small piles. The rocks that normally hold fox snakes and milk snakes didn't turn up anything. We noticed a small mating group of Common Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) in the rocks. There appeared to be one female and five males, though one slipped away before I could grab this photo.

That was all we saw at the site, but if you are only going to see garters, at least seeing this mating group was cool. As we were pulling away, we noticed that the roadside area was backed up by an old quarry. We had never seen it before because the other times we had been here the trees had leaves that obsured the view. It was behind a fence, so we went to the nearest farmhouse and got permission to poke around in there a bit. We didn't see anything, but the area has a lot of potential and we will try it again probably later this spring.

We went to visit some tin and board sites that we set up last year in some Linn County prairies, but we didn't see anything. I'm including this picture of my truck because it is starting to show some rust and I wanted a picture on herpjournal so I can look back in a few years and see how nice it looked before it rusted away.

As we were driving back, I was debating if I wanted to go the the next site as it was kinda out of my way and I wasn't really feeling it after pretty much striking out through our first few stops. I knew if I didn't go, Don would, and he would send me pictures of all the things I missed out on. I decided I had better go.

I made the right decision.

We weren't there long when we walked up on this scene.

That's a big Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer) sticking out from under that old piece of metal. We turned the metal and found three large bullsnakes hanging out there.

This first one is a classic eastern Iowa bull, with the dark front third, lighter center and then dark black tail section. It was a really beautiful animal.

The second one was a little thinner and lacked the distinct color separation of the first.

The third one was a monster, a big heavy bodied snake with very dark coloration. All three were very calm and were fairly cooperative for a short photo session.

Photos by Don Becker

We walked back to another area with more cover objects without seeing anything. There was one spot where some of the cover objects had been piled up into a single pile. We went to redistribute them, and between the layers we found a couple of garter snakes and a Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon).

One of the garters had a brownish background color instead of the more typical black we usually see so I grabbed a photo.

We were going to skip this small area that normally holds milk snakes because we weren't expecting them to be up yet, but our route back to the vehicle went right by there so we stopped. Of course, we flipped a Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum)

It was a small adult and my first of the year. I really glad I made the right decision and went on this last stop of the day. I wouldn't have enjoyed hearing about it from Don if I had decided not to go.

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