The first snake of the year 2004 for me: the Texas Brown Snake, Storeria dekayi texana. It was crossing the path at Bell Slough. I don't see Brownies that often any more. They appear relatively plain and brown and are rarely over a foot long (this one was about 9 inches). Arkansas has two subspecies and by the facial markings and the lack of the cross lines on the back this is closest to the Texas form (the other is the Midland S. d. wrightorum). Intergrades are extensive in this species. In eastern Arkansas they likely have only the Midland form. Note the subtle rusts and creamy grays in this flashed shot.

The tongue of the same snake.  Every time I flicked my finger the tongue came out. Finally caught it with some shutter timing.

The much more strongly marked Brown Snake from my yard in 2008. This is much more consistent with the Midland form. This is a larger female who was about 9 inches in length. Very active on this cool spring day once she was released from under her rock.

The facial portrait for direct comparison.

In August of 2008 these showed up in the yard. Perhaps born to the exact snake shown above. This tiny snake was just three inches long making it the smallest snake I had ever seen. According to Trauth, they average about 85mm at their live birth. Mothers give birth in July to about 7 to 15 young. These were just beautiful things. I thought it was an insect when I saw it.

And a full sized adult in April from the back yard in 2015. Less red and more banding. 

The related Storeria occipitomaculata, apply named the Redbelly Snake. Not that common but fairly widespread in the state, favoring leaf litter and wooded areas. Maximum size about 12 inches or so. Never bites but can play dead like a Hognose. Always has the diagnostic reddish belly but comes in gray, black and red forms. This is the red form from Perry county.

The head of same individual. Showing the spot under the eye and behind the border of the darker head. Also the reddish brown tones. Really nice little snakes.

I thought this was a Smooth Earth Snake when I first saw it. A moment of exhilaration followed as I have yet to find that rarity in my travels. Then I lifted it up and could not decide if they were keeled scales or not. The Rough Earth Snake, Virginia striatula, (this creature) has keels on its scales. Close inspection showed some. And the number of scales over the upper lip is different for the two species. This one has five. Worm Snakes and Flathead Snakes can be confused with these as well. All are small and relatively plain. Scale patterns and head shapes help.

Same snake freed. Note the clouded eye of a snake very close to shedding. And here you can count the scales on the lip. Note also the horizontal scale directly in front of the eye. This feature separates it from several of those other small brown species. They all have a loreal scale in front of the eye before you get to this scale. Note the handsome British Soldier moss fruiting body to the right.

The snake the above species can be mistaken for. This is the Worm Snake, specifically, the Western Worm Snake, Carphophis vermis. I pulled this one up from the leaf litter in front of my house while ripping out Poison Oak vines. These are burrowers and leaf litter lovers. Very little is known of their life habits in Arkansas but they eat earthworms almost exclusively and look somewhat like one to double justify their name. In Missouri activity begins in March but most surface sightings are in April and May. They are rear-fanged snakes but you would be hard pressed to get envenomated. I have never seen one open its mouth. They do like to nose into your hand though.

Same snake in close up. Arkansas has two Worm snakes. The other species looks very similar but is found only in the upper NE counties along and east of Crowley's Ridge. It is the Midwest Worm Snake, C. amoenus helenae. Coloration is somewhat different but a defining head character is seen here with the scale in front of the eye divided. You can see them here with one red plate above that small nostril and one gray plate touching the corner of the eye. Habits are likely similar. A glossy shining snake in the light of my flash. I let it go in the leaf litter of my wife's Peonies.

And several years later, literally within 15 feet of finding the first Worm above I found this larger and less cloudy eyed specimen. Did the burrow in the hand and the tail tip warning. This one was close to ten inches.
Detail of the beautiful head. Released in my rock pile. 

After I found the above Earth Snake I lamented to myself that it had been a long time since I had encountered a Ringneck. One week later this guy was crossing a paved road. I centered him, went over and then parked and ran back just as another vehicle blew over him. Truck just missed the tail. Despite the temperature of 55 degrees this snake was fast and active. Musked me immediately with a powerful dose. Tried to shoot some shots of it in the leaves but it was impressive at vanishing there. This is the Prairie Ringneck Snake, Diadophis punctatus arnyi. We have another version, the Mississippi Ringneck Snake, D. p. stictogenys, in the flat half of the state. The scattered belly black spots apparently define this Prairie form the best. And the undivided ring on the neck. A very fine animal.

Mississippi version from Montgomery county. Tail showing the more orderly centralized spots down the middle of the belly.

This Ringneck showed up on my front porch, looking for insects. Luckily I spotted it before my dog did. Was about 10 inches or so. And very nicely colored, likely after a recent skin shedding. It wandered slowly into the leaf litter after it's portrait was taken.

The Rough Green Snake, surely one of the gentlest creatures in our woods. Always a pleasure to see them and they are easily handled (though you may get musked).  Note the central raised ridge on the scales which separates them from the much rarer Smooth Green Snake.

Another Rough Green Snake, on the hunt in Bell in 2010.

And a species I have seen many of, but have not managed a shot that was worth keeping. This is Tom's from Camp with a fine composition, the Western Ribbon Snake, Thamnophis proximus proximus. The related Common Garter is more common in the eastern part of the state.

Amazingly, the day after I added Tom's shot above, David Oakley shot this Thamnophis in his yard in NW AR. I am not convinced we have this species in my county. And Trauth does not suggest that the Eastern Garter, T. sirtalis sirtalis ever has this bright of an orange dorsal stripe.  Chunkier snakes with the dark and light pattern on the side instead of the extra ribbons. Also note the larger head and the dark suorbital lines.