Historical data can clarify ecological attributes of fauna in sites that have subsequently been altered by anthropogenic activities. We used the 1960s notebooks of pioneering East African naturalist C.J.P. Ionides to extract quantitative information on captures of 484 snakes of five species (rhinoceros vipers Bitis nasicornis, black mambas Dendroaspis polylepis, Jameson’s mambas D. jamesoni, water cobras Naja annulata, and eastern forest cobras N. subfulva). High capture rates suggest high abundances of all species. The relative numbers of each species collected changed over the years and differed seasonally, reflecting targeting by Ionides. Sex ratios and age-class distributions differed among species and were affected by factors such as month of collection and time of day. Habitat use was affected by species, sex and body size: for example, arboreality became less common with increasing body size in the rhinoceros viper and black mamba, and males were found in arboreal sites more often than were females. In both D. jamesoni and D. polylepis, adult males and females were recorded together in September-October, suggesting reproductive activity at this time of year. Although fragmentary, the data from Ionides’ notebooks provide a unique glimpse into ecological patterns of snakes within an African landscape half a century ago.