Location: Linn County, Iowa
Conditions: Sunny, 75 degrees
Time: 4:00 - 7:00 pm
Herpers: Don, Jason, David Becker, Austin, Jim Scharosch
Austin and I met up with Don Becker and his son David and Don's brother Jason at 4:00 pm. It was late in the afternoon of a fairly warm day. I knew we would be walking a sand prairie and later flipping railroad ties, so my hopes weren't too high for the trip.
The sand prairie didn't turn up much, as I was expecting. The sand was a bit hot for things to be laying out sunning this late in the afternoon. We saw a garter snake and a couple of racerunners. We didn't spend much time there.
We stopped off at a rock pile near a creek on our way to our next site, and found four more garter snakes, I didn't stop to take any photos.
We reached the other area we were going to check at about 5:30 pm. It was an area of railroad tracks with many discarded ties that I had checked earlier in the spring without seeing anything. The ties were all full length and many were buried in the ground on one end. Not my favorite thing to turn, but it was a place that looked too good to only try once. I was glad to have a few people along to help turn those big ties!
We saw a number of brown snakes, all gravid females. I tend to see quite a few brown snakes this time of year and they always tend to be gravid females. I think the females must sit a little closer to the warm surface of the outer world as they prepare to drop their babies.
At about 6:00 pm I turned a tie and found a Bullsnake (Pituophis c. sayi).
It was about four feet long and appeared to be female. It was a very pretty snake. We took our pictures and cut her loose back where she was found. I was surprised to see a bullsnake in this area, as it seemed a lot more like fox snake habitat to me.
We worked our way along the tracks, flipping ties. About a half an hour later and a billion ties later, as I walked to the next pile of ties, I spotted another bullsnake, this one laying in the grass alongside the tracks.
This one was at least five feet long and extremely heavy with eggs. She looked freshly shed and I am thinking she was out looking for a good place to lay her eggs. We took some pics and turned her loose under a big pile of ties. Hopefully her eggs survive to provide another generation of bullsnakes for us to find at this area.
We called it a day at about 7:00 pm after seeing a few more brown snakes and another garter snake. It wasn't a bad afternoon, considering I left the house with pretty low expectations.