Canoeing the Scatters
Yellowbelly Water Snake
Place and Time: La Rue Pine Hills Ecological Area, Union Co., Illinois. May 23rd and 24th.
Weather: Sunny with occasional clouds; highs in the low eighties.
Others present: Steve Coogan.
Our objective on this short trip was to put a canoe out into Winter's Pond and the Scatters for the first time. We decided to first put in at Winters Pond. Our first herp was a good-sized Yellowbelly Water Snake, stretched out on a log in the sun. Once we made it out past the spatterdock and buttonbush, we found the water to be quite clear and full of coontail (Ceratophyllum). I spotted an adult Stinkpot swimming along in the coontail.
Back further we spotted a number of Redeared Sliders sunning on logs. Coming up on a large beaver lodge, we startled a very large female Redear into the water, along with several Cottonmouths that were sunning on the lodge. We also spotted a nice Blanchard's Cricket Frog that was nearly all green in coloration. Moth sighting: an Obtuse Euchalena on a leaf, a foot or so above the water.
We put the canoe in at several locations and at the last, managed to canoe from the Snake Road all the way back to the railroad tracks at the back of the Scatters. No herps but we did scare up a pair of Wood Ducks.
That evening we hung a white sheet in front of the lantern and drew in some interesting moths - Grape Leaf Rollers, Tulip Tree Beauties, and a number of Owlets. The Barred Owls were calling as we went to bed, and in the morning we were greeted by a Wood Thrushes' variolay. I love this place!
The next day we walked up the Snake Road, finding the usual complement of Southern Leopard Frogs, Yellowbellied Water Snakes, and Cottonmouths. Highlight of the day: At the spring a pair of Prothonotary Warblers had made a nest in a hollow tree stump about fifteen feet from the water's edge. Steve and I sat for quite a while and watched the pair come and go, bringing food to the fledglings and carrying away their small fecal sacs for disposal elsewhere.
Stopped off at Mermet Lake before heading home, in the hopes of finding one of the Broadbanded Water Snakes rumored to be there. We sighted two water snakes but they were too fast and too far away for a decisive ID. Driving out we came across the largest Spiny Softshell I've ever seen - a full-sized female with a head and neck the size of my fist and arm! Managed to snap a quick photo before she retreated into Mermet Lake. Whew! A new species for the Life List!
Herp Species Observed:
Yellowbellied Water Snake
Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster
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