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.
One thing I’ve known from the start of my British Animal Challenge is that, to do it, I’m going to need help. While there are some types of animals it’s fairly straightforward to stumble across and identify, others are more complex. For example, bats. There are around 15 different species of bat in the UK, and they’re nocturnal. Even once I find some, I’m going to need expert help identifying which species they are. And with rare animals, I may well need help as to where to find them. Most distribution information in books is at a level that is too general to be that helpful – even if you know a certain species is present in a certain type of habitat in a county, that’s still a lot of area to cover, when the species may only be in very specific sites…
So part of my research has been around finding out who might help me on my quest. I’ve been surprised to find how many different local wildlife groups there are. I’m already a member of Surrey Wildlife Trust, Surrey Mammal Group and Surrey Dormouse Group. I’ve now joined Surrey Amphibians and Reptiles Group, and the form to join Surrey Bat Group is printed off as well. I’m sure there are many other groups I’ve yet to discover.
These local groups all exist to protect the species they are interested in. Their activities include habitat work, advising landowners, carrying out surveys to help research the animals, and educating people about the species. They are generally run by volunteers, and include members with years of experience and great expertise. If you’re interested in wildlife, why not look for a local group who work with the species you’re interested in? You may be surprised by how many there are out there! I’ve learnt lots from volunteering with Surrey Dormouse Group (and not just about dormice!), and I’ve contributed to gathering data that will help us learn more about this threatened species.
I hope that over the next few years I’ll learn more about many other animals, and contribute in a small way to their protection.
This is my diary of the wildlife where I live in Oxfordshire, and sometimes the places I visit. I am a 16 year old young naturalist with a passion for British wildlife, especially Badgers and Hares. I have been blogging since May 2013 and you can read my old blog posts at www.appletonwildlifediary.blogspot.co.uk