NOTE: “Hot Stove Herping’ is a phrase I coined years ago, for use in end-of-year posts on the old Field Herp Forum. I stole it from baseball; members of the ‘hot stove league’ huddle together during the cold winter months and talk baseball until spring and the game comes back. In a similar fashion, field herpers living in moderate climates hunker down amid the cold and snow and think of the year that passed, and dream of the coming spring.
This herping trip took place in early April 2021 and spans three states – Louisiana, Mississippi, and a little bit of Alabama. Much of the trip was spent checking out trash piles, tin sites, and board lines across the three states. A flip trip, as it were.
Some of the piles date back to hurricane Katrina, and there were lots of old wrecked boats back in the woods among the junk.
We had warm and dry spring weather for the bulk of the trip, and the snakes were active and under debris. We found several Marsh Brown Snakes (Storeria dekayi ‘limnetes’). Subspecies of Storeria dekayi have been sunk but I still like to tick them off the list.
In a trash pile under a highway overpass we found a nice Blackmask Racer (Coluber constrictor latrunculus).
Early on and close to New Orleans, we found this chunky Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) under a section of plywood. I’m in love with the wide and pale markings on these southern copperheads.
A few minutes later this hefty Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) was also discovered under plywood.
A gnarly-looking Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoletus) flipped close to the Timber. I like rat snakes a lot but this one was a hot mess.
Moving east a little, we turned up some nice finds in the Pearl River basin, including this Speckled Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula holbrooki).
I hadn’t seen a Rainbow Snake (Farancia erytrogramma) since 1997, so I was quite excited that one turned up under a section of roofing tin close to water. The only disappointment was that it was in shed and opaque, but still a very cool find. So many years had passed since my last encounter, and I was beginning to wonder.
We zoomed all the way over to southwest Alabama, and more flipping produced the first of a series of nice-looking Corn Snakes (Pantherophis guttatus).
At an old sand pit, rolling a log turned up a Pine Woods Snake (Rhadinaea flavilata), a lifer for me. I’ve seen a few DORs but it took a lot longer than I expected to find a live one. I should herp better.
Another lifer from the sand pit area was this Southeastern Crowned Snake (Tantilla coronata). NOTE: If you take pictures of fossorial snakes in a sand pit, there will be sand on your subjects.
This slightly skinny Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) had a flaming red dorsal stripe which I thought was cool. I can’t recall seeing one like this but there’s no end to the variations within sirtalis.
Another cool find was this young Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor priapus), which had already traded in the blotched pattern characteristic of juveniles for the silky blue-black color of adults. Some of you are shaking your heads at my use of the word ‘cool’ but the heart loves what the heart loves.
The next day we reversed course and headed back west into Mississippi, and the flipping continued. We found more beautiful copperheads under tin and plywood.
The corn snakes continued as well, including this absolute unit of a male, who was chilling under some corrugated roofing tin. Four feet in length and girthy – we thought it was a female when revealed. Will I ever get tired of corn snakes? Probably not, especially when they look like this gorgeous monster.
Also on the flipping docket were Eastern Coachwhips (Masticophis flagellum flagellum).
Most of the ones we found had black heads and necks, with wide tan and dark brown bands appearing further down the body, and then tan for the last third.
We returned to Louisiana for the last leg of the trip, spending a couple days at a friend’s hunting camp north of Baton Rouge. There’s a lot of tin to flip on the property, but one of the cooler finds was this Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), which Alex walked up in the middle of some woods. You can call it a Canebrake if you like but there were no cane brakes in the area.
We stayed back from the snake and shot photos in situ. This is were my 100-300 lens came in handy for closeups.
On the fossorial side of things was this Florida Red-bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata obscura).
This juvenile Scarlet Kingsnake (Lampropeltis elapsoides) turned up near the end of the massive tin flip.
We did a little turtle trapping in a nearby river and caught this big Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera aspera).
We also got our hands on a few Gulf Coast Smooth Softshells (Apalone mutica calvata).
We stopped to rescue this Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) off a two-lane highway.
We visited a few tin sites back in the woods that were incredible. Hurricane Katrina turned a lot of buildings into instant junk piles and flip sites.
A nice copperhead flipped at the big tin site.
A Broad-headed Skink (Plestiodon laticeps) doing what they do best – biting down and holding on.
One more rat snake, a good sized one found close to the road.
It was a real fun flipping trip with good friends (sometimes LOTS of good friends) on hand. I left my car at the New Orleans airport and headed off to Paraguay, but that, as they say, is another Hot Stove Herping story.