An adder basking on the heath

Reptile walk

I’m ideally placed to see the six species of reptiles that are native to Britain, as all of them can be found in Surrey. (I’ll have to go further afield to see some of the non-native ones that now live in the wild in Britain). So last week I joined Surrey Wildlife Trust rangers Jamel Guenioui and James Herd for a stroll around Rodborough Common to see what reptiles were out and about.

Rodborough Common is ideal reptile habitat, with heathland surrounded by woods. The only thing missing is waterside areas favoured by grass snakes.

The weather wasn’t brilliant for reptile watching, as it was mostly overcast, and a cool 10 degrees when we set off. But it did brighten up and warm to 16 degrees by the end of the walk.

We followed a transect of the common that is used by Surrey Amphibians and Reptiles Group in their regular surveys of the site, checking under sheets of corrugated tin and roofing felt left in strategic locations, and trying to spot creatures basking in the open as well.

Despite the overcast conditions we did pretty well. Quite a few of the refuga had slow worms underneath, and we spotted a few large adders basking in the open.

An adder basking on the heath
A female adder basking on the heath
A slow worm under a refuge of corrugated tin
A slow worm under a refuge of corrugated tin
More slow worms under a corrugated tin refuge
More slow worms under a corrugated tin refuge

Reptiles aren’t the only creatures who enjoy the warmth of the refuga. A few had woodmice underneath, and a lot had been taken over by ants,  particularly wood ants.

It was good to see reptiles up close, and for longer than the usual fleeting glimpses I get. While I didn’t manage to tick any new species off my list, hopefully the practice of spotting them out in the open will help me to see more in the future.

We also got to see roe deer roaming the common, and hear a cuckoo (a rare sound these days). It was a very informative and enjoyable way of spending the morning.

The walk was one of a series run by Surrey Wildlife Trust in various locations across the county. Their website has details of future walks, focusing on different sorts of wildlife.

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2 thoughts on “Reptile walk”

  1. What a good post and what a good idea. We have an unused field behind the farm that is overgrown and peppered with field mice, we also have several old sheets of corrugated iron lying around. I think we need a reptile survey. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Thanks! In case it’s helpful, here’s the spec Surrey Amphibian and Reptiles Group use for their refugia http://surrey-arg.org.uk/SARG/07000-Publications/Guides/SARG%20Refugia%20Specification.pdf
      It might be worth talking to your local reptiles group, as they might be able to tell you whether there are likely to be any rare reptiles on your site, or advise on where best to position the refugia. If there are rare reptiles (smooth snakes or sand lizards), that will limit what you can do, as you need a license to survey them. This website contains links to local reptiles groups. http://www.arguk.org/

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