Yet another Missouri/Illinois post

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cbernz
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Yet another Missouri/Illinois post

Post by cbernz » October 21st, 2016, 7:30 pm

I spent 10/13 to 10/18 exploring eastern Missouri and Snake Road area with a couple friends. We started out exploring some glade habitat on a cool day, where many snakes were flipped. Most of those many were either Prairie Ringnecks or Lined Snakes.

Prairie Ringneck:
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Lined Snake:
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Sometimes the snake turned out to be a spider:
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After flipping several dozen Lined Snakes, this stunningly marked Eastern Garter knocked my socks off:
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Young Yellow-bellied Racer:
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On Day 2, we visited Onondaga Cave State Park to do a cave tour. While waiting for the tour to start, I photographed some of the many katydids calling around the campground and visitor's center:

Woodland Meadow Katydid (Conocephalus nemoralis):
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Short-winged Meadow Katydid (Conocephalus brevipennis):
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Black-legged Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum nigripes):
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Inside the cave, there was some sort of a narrow shaft (drainage? ventilation?) with a plastic tote underneath it. This Red Milk Snake had made its way down into the cave and was resting on top of the tote, along with a couple Southern Redback Salamanders:
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A bit further into the cave, near the end of the tour, there was a stream where we saw several Grotto Salamanders:
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Later that day, we headed to another spot to try to find Ringed Salamanders near their breeding pools. I had visited Missouri in October 2011 during an extremely hot, dry week to look for Ringed, and had trouble finding even a Slimy or a Newt. This time, the ground was much moister and the vernals fuller, but we still failed to get any rains during our trip. However, we did manage to turn up this one male, who was stunning despite having some sort of caudate leprosy:
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We also found this little Midland Brown Snake in the late afternoon:
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The next day, after a couple days of variably cool and cloudy weather, we had a gorgeous, 80 degree day as we arrived at Snake Rd. This was a first trip for my two companions. I had told them that Snake Rd. was going to be literally crawling with snakes, but I don't think they fully grasped the concept until they witnessed the spectacle we beheld on this day. We ended up seeing probably 60-70 snakes of 10 species in about a 4.5-hour walk (plus Garter Snake, which we only saw on the levee on the drive in).

Western Cottonmouth, one of dozens:
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This Rough Green Snake thought he was pretty slick by pretending to be a gently waving green vine against a background of dead leaves:
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A young Cottonmouth with a beautifully maroon-colored head:
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I found several Black Rat Snakes stretched out on the bluffs like this:
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Mississippi Green Water Snake:
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Yellow-bellied Water Snake:
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Black Racer, uncharacteristically stationary:
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I stepped right over this baby Timber. Luckily, there was a group of about 5 people right behind me who were paying better attention:
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This Western Ribbon might be my favorite snake of the trip. We found several others, but none so cooperative:
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Cave Salamanders were very easy to find in the bluffs:
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A cute little Yellow-bellied Water Snake youngster:
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The following morning, Snake Rd. was so unproductive (apart from Cottonmouths congregating outside their dens at the base of the bluffs) that we ducked out to explore nearby areas for salamanders, like this stunning young Spotted Salamander:
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And a couple more subtly beautiful Smallmouths:
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Back on Snake Rd. later in the day, we did start to see more snakes, mainly Cottonmouths and Water Snakes. I also flipped this Zigzag Salamander:
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And on the edge of a swamp, this mother Marbled with eggs:
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Not pictured are the celebratory racks of ribs we had at 17th St. BBQ in Murphysboro, because we devoured them all as soon as they hit the table. Highly, highly recommended.

This was a fantastic trip, top to bottom. If I lived a few hundred miles closer, I'd probably go 3 or 4 times a year. Don't hesitate to go if you have the opportunity - it really is a stellar area to herp.

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pete
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Re: Yet another Missouri/Illinois post

Post by pete » October 23rd, 2016, 5:10 am

It is an amazing place to herp alright. I haven't been in several years, but have had the privilege of going both in spring and fall. Love flipping in glades in Missouri as well, so many rocks!
Thanks for the post, I always appreciate your invert shots with IDs.

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Brian Willey
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Re: Yet another Missouri/Illinois post

Post by Brian Willey » October 23rd, 2016, 9:41 am

You guys got some real treats in Missouri! It's not easy to find adult Grotto Salamanders.

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Hadar
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Re: Yet another Missouri/Illinois post

Post by Hadar » October 25th, 2016, 6:16 pm

Cliff I'm so glad you made it to Snake Road this year. I took a quick trip down in April but didn't get to make it for the migration this year. Sometime I'll need to sit down and post everything from the past 8 months...ugh how far behind I've gotten. Happy to see a post from you though. Love the grotto salamander!

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cbernz
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Re: Yet another Missouri/Illinois post

Post by cbernz » October 26th, 2016, 5:28 am

Thanks. I would definitely like to try it in spring next time and hopefully do better with turtles (only saw Red-eared Sliders and a DOR box this trip). Grotto was actually the easiest salamander since it was in a show cave, and there were about 13 other people plus a tour guide helping to look. I just had to remember to watch out for the low ceiling while scanning down low for salamanders!

NACairns
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Re: Yet another Missouri/Illinois post

Post by NACairns » October 26th, 2016, 8:02 pm

Great post from a cool place in the world. My guess on that caudate leprosy in your Ambystoma annulatum (great spot by the way) would be chiggers? They are really common in the montane Plethodontids down there, to the point of many of them missing toes.
Great stuff thanks for sharing.
Best,
Nick

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pjfishpa
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Re: Yet another Missouri/Illinois post

Post by pjfishpa » October 27th, 2016, 3:07 am

Thanks for posting. Pretty cool place to herp for sure. Appreciate the salamander pics too! Will keep that rib place in mind next time I head over that way.

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blacktara
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Re: Yet another Missouri/Illinois post

Post by blacktara » November 1st, 2016, 10:54 am

Great stuff!! Especially love the milk snake and those manders, especially the grotto, ringed and zigzag

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mfb
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Re: Yet another Missouri/Illinois post

Post by mfb » November 19th, 2016, 1:19 pm

Coming in pretty late here, but this is an awesome post. Love the grotto salamander and the many in-situ shots!

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VinceAdam2015
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Re: Yet another Missouri/Illinois post

Post by VinceAdam2015 » November 30th, 2016, 7:53 am

Amazing herps photos. I wish I'd started herping when I was living in IL for 6 years..sigh

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Evgeny Kotelevsky
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Re: Yet another Missouri/Illinois post

Post by Evgeny Kotelevsky » November 30th, 2016, 12:50 pm

Cave salamanders are troglobionts? Or can be found outside the cave?

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Porter
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Re: Yet another Missouri/Illinois post

Post by Porter » November 30th, 2016, 2:14 pm

My grandma was from Illinois. It's always cool to see stuff like this. She had a friend who I think as from Missouri...not sure. She said she used to find horse hair snakes when she was a kid. Any idea what she was referring to?
I like these shots of the moving vine the most :thumb:

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I love mind boggling shots like this! Cool stuff :thumb: I'm still haven't trouble figuring out how to make sense of it tho... :lol: https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=la ... ajaxhist=0

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