Buckeye Herps Blog

A photographic journal of the reptiles and amphibians of Ohio, Michigan and other places interesting wildlife call home.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sand Prairies of Illinois

Eastern Illinois is blessed with a remnant sand prairie that is a relic of forgotten days.  It seems that as glaciers melted a large flood event occured that also led to the formation of the Kankakee River.  As flood waters receded, large deposits of sand were deposited forming sand prairies.  Many western species of plants and animals call these now disjointed islands home.

I was in Chicago for a conference in early May and decided to try and take another pilgrimage to visit these sand prairies along the banks of the Kankakee River in eastern Illinois and western Indiana.  I had visited once before, I think back in 2005 or 2006 and was relatively unsuccessful.  I hoped maybe this trip would be different.

I was driving to some of the first locations early in the morning, and just starting to enter good habitat, when I saw a serpentine shape working its way across the road.

Western Slender Glass Lizard -  Ophisaurus attenuatus attenuatus
It wasn't a snake, but it was even cooler.  I hadn't seen a glass lizard in 7 or 8 years and was real happy to come across this one.  This is one of the sand prairie specialists.

I spent most of the day searching for trash and abandoned debris to search for snakes.  Despite temperatures in the mid70s, low80s and a partly cloudy sky the day remained pretty slow.  Six-lined Racerunners Aspidosaurus sexlineatus viridis were scurrying about the grasses, although I didn't bother to photograph any.

Later in the morning, I finally started to have some success, flipping some ugly blue racers and milk snakes.  Michigan's representatives of both species are much prettier.

"Blue" Racer Coluber constrictor foxi
The day continued to creep on without my main target being acquired.  I sorted through plenty of junk and tried to walk some more appropriate habitat without any luck.  Finally, in the late afternoon I decided to turn down one other road that appeared the same as all the rest.  I found a place to explore, and quickly turned up my fourth or fifth racer of the day.  The site was no different than all the others, and even had less junk to explore.  I walked up on a board though, and flipped it to find my goal for the day.

Bull Snake Pituophis catenifer sayi
This was a very large individual and not at all cooperative for photos.  I found one other board near a shack, and in short order, I had my second bullsnake of the day!

It was a great end to a slow day.  I happily called it quits and started to head back to the windy city.  Bullsnakes rock!



  1. Nice write up man, some stellar photography as always. I'm thinking about swinging there in September in hopes of seeing some bulls.

  2. Thanks Nick! I was glad to finally score a bull. Impressive animals for sure.