Wednesday I spent some time herping
St Francois Co, MO. First I hit a couple pieces of tin that I can always count
on producing well in the spring. The first piece held a Prairie King on one end
and a Black Rat on the other. They both had a few moister scars and were looking
pretty rough from their winter dormancy so I passed on the photographs. The other
piece hid a nice Yellow-bellied Racer but it was covered in mud so I again passed on the photograph. Next I visited an old RR track trestle that’s used as hibernacula by many local snakes. The sun had come out about thirty minutes earlier so the snakes were just emerging when I arrived. On approaching I counted six Black Rat heads sticking out of various cracks, they
of coarse retreated back in when they caught sight of me. On the other side of
the trestle I found a large rat snake fully emerged and soaking up some sun. I
decided a photo of the snake sunning atop its hibernacula would be a cool habitat shot.
The snake had already seen me and was not going to hang around for me to get set up so I had to bag him while I prepared
to make the photo. I planned on releasing him near his crack and making the photo
while he was about to enter it. It turns out the snake had other plans; he quickly
found a hole that had been hidden by leaves and was gone in an instant. That
photo will have to wait for another day. After this I decided to visit a near
by State Park where Four-toed Salamanders are rumored to live. I struck out on
the Four-toed and only managed to find the ever present Western Slimy Salamander. I
also managed to find several Prairie Ring-neck Snakes and another Yellow-bellied Racer.
The coolest find of the day wasn’t even a herp but a bird, an unseen American Woodcock exploded from the forest
floor but landed near by and started flopping around. I knew there must be fledglings
around and this was confirmed when five little Woodcocks lost there nerve and made a run for it. I didn’t want to disturb the babies any more so I let the mother lead me away with her broken wing
act. This is the kind
of stuff that keeps me in the field.