Hot Stove Herping: Flipping the South

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.

Storeria dekayi limnetes

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.

Coluber constrictor latrunculus

In a trash pile under a highway overpass we found a nice Blackmask Racer (Coluber constrictor latrunculus).

Agkistrodon contortrix

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.

Crotalus horridus

A few minutes later this hefty Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) was also discovered under plywood.

Pantherophis obsoletus

A gnarly-looking Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoletus) flipped close to the Timber. I like rat snakes a lot but this one was a hot mess.

Lampropeltis getula holbrooki

Moving east a little, we turned up some nice finds in the Pearl River basin, including this Speckled Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula holbrooki).

Farancia erytrogramma

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.

Pantherophis guttatus

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).

Rhadinaea flavilata

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.

Tantilla coronata

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.

Thamnophis sirtalis

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.

Coluber constrictor priapus

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.

Agkistrodon contortrix

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.

Pantherophis guttatus

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.

Masticophis flagellum flagellum

Also on the flipping docket were Eastern Coachwhips (Masticophis flagellum flagellum).

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.

Crotalus horridus

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.

Storeria occipitomaculata obscura

On the fossorial side of things was this Florida Red-bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata obscura).

Lampropeltis elapsoides

This juvenile Scarlet Kingsnake (Lampropeltis elapsoides) turned up near the end of the massive tin flip.

Apalone spinifera aspera

We did a little turtle trapping in a nearby river and caught this big Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera aspera).

Apalone mutica calvata

We also got our hands on a few Gulf Coast Smooth Softshells (Apalone mutica calvata).

Chelydra serpentina

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.

Plestiodon laticeps

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’s OK, everyone has their shingles vaccine.

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.

10 Comments

  1. Josh

    What a post! Keep the HSH coming!

    Reply
    1. Mike Pingleton (Post author)

      Thanks Josh! More in the pipeline.

      Reply
  2. Justin

    Excellent trip report.

    Reply
    1. Mike Pingleton (Post author)

      thanks Justin! Much appreciated.

      Reply
  3. Herpful

    Absolutely delightful to read this during a Colorado winter. Great photos, wonderful tone to the script. My herp muscles are a tad rusty.

    Reply
    1. Mike Pingleton (Post author)

      Thanks, Thom! Have a wonderful holiday!

      Reply
      1. Thom Parks

        And Merry Christmas to you and yours! I was thinking, is a scarlet king the quintessential Christmas snake?

        Reply
        1. Mike Pingleton (Post author)

          Indeed! 🙂 Merry Christmas Thom!

          Reply
  4. Todd Battey

    Mike,

    Great trip report and photos. I recognize those clowns.

    Todd

    Reply
    1. Mike Pingleton (Post author)

      🙂 thanks Todd!

      Reply

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