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A Quick Local Trip

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.