A Travellerspoint blog

S. IL Day 2: More gorgeous lifer herps!

Wildcat Bluff, IL

semi-overcast 57 °F

Still catching up on the recent herping trip to southern Illinois...snake lovers, this post is for you!


Oliver, Ben, and I started the day a little late because of the crazy night we had before, but we ended up arriving to Tony’s place at Wildcat Bluff, where we would camp for the next two nights, around 10am. Pretty soon, Oliver and I were herping underneath Wildcat Bluff and before we knew it, Oliver exclaimed and he had come up pretty suddenly on a Northern Cottonmouth that seemed like it had just come out of hibernation.

Central Newt eft (terrestrial form):

A nice Long-tailed Salamander, a pretty noteworthy species for Wildcat Bluff:

And BOOM! A brilliant Cave Salamander, my favorite salamander species, and #12 for the year out of 20 possible Illinois salamander species. Look at those colors!

BLACK VULTURES were a pleasantly common sight throughout the weekend — you can separate them from Turkey Vultures by their gray wingtips:

And around mid-day, Ben and Oliver left to chase their Illinois lifer Barn Owl an hour north of Wildcat Bluff, and I stuck around to herp the property. I was itching to flip Tony’s tin pieces he has laid out over his 80-acre property and hopefully find something like Black Kingsnake, Black Racer, Black Ratsnake, or Eastern Milksnake.

And soon enough, I flipped a piece of tin and my eyes popped out of my head when I saw my lifer Black Kingsnake. I was rather hesitant to grab it at first considering I hadn’t touched a snake in months, but soon I pulled it out from the weeds it was nestled in and found this absolutely immaculate individual. What a stunner — Tony’s property is the #1 place to find a Black Kingsnake in Illinois, and find it I did! Hell yeah!

Here it is with one of Tony’s crazy dogs passing underneath, lol.

Eastern Box Turtle completely tucked into the shell was awesome too:

Then, I saw ANOTHER snake laying in the grass and it turned out to be my lifer Black Racer! This was a species I thought was a longshot so I was super stunned to get this one and happy to catch it before it was able to race away — these things can really move if they choose to do so.

I then met up with Tony and his buddy named Isaiah and we harped even more on his property, flipping an Eastern Tiger Salamander in his garden, super awesome!

And Isaiah pulled a pair of Eastern Kingsnakes out of a rock pile!!! Incredible! He got some cool footage of these for his superb youtube herping channel, Loopy Toopy.

Next, we hit the actual bluff itself and flipped the rocks, yielding a Northern Slimy Salamander, species #13 for my big year.

And Isaiah had the best flip of the day with this Red Eastern Milksnake, possibly the snake I was most dreaming about finding on this trip. Milksnakes spend most of their lives underneath rocks on steep hillsides so they are understandably elusive and absolutely earth-shatteringly beautiful creatures. Lifer!

And yet another lifer snake for the day, a Ring-necked Snake — amazing!

Look at that gorgeous underside!

Not a lifer, but absolutely a noteworthy find for the day was this huge Black Ratsnake Isaiah put onto a snag that it promptly climbed up. Here is Oliver admiring it:

Then, we caravaned over to the Herond Pond railroad tracks to try for Marbled Salamander again. U Unfortunately, we came up empty despite flipping sooo many logs, but did have some consolation in the form of a pretty Spotted Salamander:

And when we got back to his property, we went dipnetting for another salamander we needed for the year, a Mole Salamander! We found one immediately — these individuals are probably neotenic which means that unlike most of their species, they retain their juvenile gilled form through adulthood and never leave the water. Awesome! This one looks so much different from the black and blue-spotted terrestrial morph I flipped here last year. Salamander #14 for the year!

Adult Eastern Newt also found in their pond:

An amazing, amazing day of herping! Bird-of-the-day to all the Black Vultures, with herp-of-the-day to the Red Eastern Milksnake and runner-up to the Black Kingsnake. An absolutely incredible day!

World Life List: 1125 Species

Posted by skwclar 06:01 Archived in USA

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Wow! Four lifer snakes! What an exciting trip!

by Poo

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