Sam Houston National Forest - 22 Feb 2003

Finally the rain had stopped. It had rained almost 8 inches in the College Station area in the last 48 hours. We needed the rain and I knew that at least amphibians would be back out.

I finished the last of my required tasks and headed out around 3pm. I wanted to go check some coverboards I had hidden away in the Sam Houston National Forest last fall and to listen for frogs. As I drove I passed over the very flooded Navasota River bottom. When I got to the forest it was evident they had not had as much rain here, although there was still a lot of water.

I arrived at the edge of Lake Conroe about 4pm. It was around 65 and sunny and bright. I decided to go down and check my boardlines first. I was surprised to find that the road to my board area was closed. This meant if I wanted to check my boards I would have to walk the 2.5 miles to the end and then still walk the 20 minutes over to my boardline. I decided my boardline could wait until later in the spring.

I continued down towards the edge of the lake and saw that there were a few people at the end of the road fishing. I decided to turn around and head back to my traditional flipping spot which was usually quieter. As I found a wide place to turn around, I spotted a pile of carpet that someone had discarded. It didn't look like it had been there long, and it was not in the best spot (at the edge of a an open area alongside a very young, scrubby stand pines, but I figured I would turn it anyway.

I pulled around and got out of the truck. I didn't bother shutting it off as I knew I wouldn't be here more than a few seconds flipping this recently discarded carpet.

First Carpet

I started to lift one edge of the carpet. As soon as I did, I saw something small and brown slither down into the pine needles right at the edge where I was lifting. Damn! My first US snake of the year and I let it go! This didn't speak well for the remaining season. I wasn't sure it was a snake (if it was, it was a Rough Earth Snake Virginia striatula or it could have been a long Little Brown Skink Scincella lateralis), but a disappointing miss all the same.

I stopped lifting for a second to decide how much effort it was worth to chase the putative Earth Snake. I opted for the "hand full of pine needles" approach where you grab a handful of litter where the animal was last seen hoping to find it within the litter. Nothing! I was thinking about digging around for it more, but I decided instead to just keep turning the carpet. I lifted it up another few inches and there was my real first snake of the year -

Texas Coral Snake

A small (~18 inch) Texas Coralsnake (Micrurus tener)! It was quite a dark coralsnake, as were all the others I have found in this forest (n=3). Of course, I was alone and I hadn't brought a hook or tongs out of the car with me (remember - I wasn't supposed to find anything under this carpet) so I had to tail it out into the clearing and then run back to my truck, shut it off, grab my digital camera, and run back to the spot. Fortunately, being a coral snake, he was still lying where I left him, jerking spasmodically in coral snake fashion. Eastern and Texas Coralsnakes are among the most unphotogenic snakes. They will either crawl non stop or assume a position that makes them look dead! I managed to get a few shots (damn blades of grass!) and a head shot where he did his best road kill impersonation.

This was a great find. Now it would have been a good day in the field no matter what else I discovered! I let the little coralsnake go and headed up towards my traditional flipping spot at the edge of the lake.

Go on to page 2 - the little things

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Chris Harrison