Tag Archives: adders

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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British reptiles

While they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, reptiles are fascinating. They are like miniature dinosaurs, hidden in our woods and heaths. It would be quite easy to go years without seeing one. Last week I attended a training session that will hopefully help me get better at spotting them.

The training was organised by the Surrey Amphibians and Reptiles Group (SARG), designed to introduce people to Britain’s native reptiles, and how to survey them. (Incidentally, if you were surveying reptiles, what would you ask them?)

Britain is home to 3 types of snake (grass snakes, adders and smooth snakes) and 3 lizards (common lizards, slow worms and sand lizards). In addition there are small populations of non-native reptiles including red-eared terrapins and aesculapian snakes in certain parts of the country.

Surveys of reptiles are important for helping to inform land management, and other efforts to protect reptiles.  SARG have an excellent website which allows owners of survey sites to see up-to-date information about where reptiles are on their land.

I have yet to see a reptile in Surrey, but have seen adders and lizards a few times along the South West Coast Path. We’re just coming up to the best time of year to see reptiles. I’m looking forwards to testing my new knowledge, and seeing if I can spot some in the next few weeks.

If you’re interested in reptiles you might like to look at the ARG website, which contains details about local reptiles groups across the country.