Bullsnake In A Bottle (continued)

where the heck did that glass lizard go?

Tin Flipping

False Boneset

Blazing Star

Hognose photo by Ken Felsman.


In mid-May we made another trip back to the sand country, bringing Ken Felsman with us. We were determined to keep coming back until we found some Bullsnakes.  The day was slightly cooler than usual for mid-May, and the sky was overcast and we were treated by the occasional sprinkle.

First off, we checked out an abandoned farmhouse up the road from Frances' trailer, to look for Western Slender Glass Lizards (Ophisaurus attenuatus attenuatus).  On our first trip to the area, Rick and I had encountered a large Glass Lizard along one side of the farmhouse.  It was my first experience with an Ophisaurus - Rick had previous dealings with them in Florida and elsewhere.  We had this Glass Lizard trapped between us, but failed to lay a hand on it - it was alert and very fast!  I grabbed for it and missed, and then was dumbstruck as the lizard reversed direction in an instant and slithered between my legs, and into a crack in the foundation.

The Glass Lizards on this second trip proved to be even more elusive.  I managed to catch a glimpse of the "south end of a lizard heading north" as it disappeared into a burrow under a clump of sumac.  I wondered if we needed to catch them early in the morning before they had a chance to warm up, a tactic necessary for Collared Lizards (Crotaphytus).  

Behind the farmhouse lay an old field, in the process of being reclaimed by native sand prairie plants.  Strewn throughout the field were pieces of rusted corrugated roofing material.  Under one "piece of tin" I found my second Eastern Milk Snake from the sand country.  This specimen was slightly over two feet and had the milky blue eyes and opaque skin tone of a snake about to shed its skin.  It made no attempt to bite as we gently examined it, and shortly we returned it to its rusted refuge to slough its skin in peace.

Eventually we worked the entire length of the long field.  Under the cloudy sky, the pieces of metal stayed cool to the touch into the late morning.  Ideal as conditions were, we turned up no more herps, and had to settle for enjoying the wildflowers as we walked back.  False boneset and blazing star were in full bloom in what was slowly turning from farmland back into sand prairie.

It was time to head for Frances' trailer.  Her littered yard failed to turn up anything, so we headed across the road to the dump, giving a few ear scratches to the mongrels from down the road.  Working the northeastern edge first, Rick scared up a pair of Blue Racers (Coluber constrictor foxi) under a piece of tin, and we enjoyed watching them boil across the open field into a briar patch.  They seem to be moving a lot faster than they really are.  In my experience, I have found racers in pairs more often than not, only occasionally finding them alone.  It may be that most of my racer encounters have come during the mating season in spring.  This was my first experience with the foxi subspecies; I was well acquainted with flaviventris, the Eastern Yellow Bellied Racer, from Missouri.  I found these Blue Racers to be identical in appearance to Yellow Bellies, being a gunmetal blue-gray dorsally, with a cream colored ventral.

Midday approached as we continued to work the dump, the temperature now up in the mid eighties, the sky overcast with an occasional sprinkle. Could this be the day, the Bullsnake Day? We flipped boards, sheetmetal, rusty pieces of automobiles, refrigerators and other trash, until our flippers were sore.  Aside from a few racerunners and toads, the pair of Blue Racers was the highlight of the dump.  Heading back to the truck, an Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) feigned death at my feet, with its mouth agape and frothing, the forked tongue fully extended and limp to one side. It's always nice to see an old friend in the field, but where were the Bullsnakes?

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