Yesterday's work related trip to Lambeth resulted in a large quantity of dead wood being collected from a site earmarked for development.
The logs were delivered to a Kent nature reserve where they will be used to create stag beetle habitat piles. More information on stag beetles is available from The People's Trust for Endangered Species. During the removal of the wood several beetles were found. These turned out to be Lesser Stag Beetles. They might not be as large as their more famous relative, but they are still impressive insects none the less.
The bodies of starfish washed up several weeks ago are still evident.
No sand lizards seen at Sandwich (didn't really expect to see any), but we did watch a viviparous lizard basking on a concrete fence post.
BTW Photos uploaded from the iPhone are too large when posted on the blog. There is probably a way to reduce the size using the TypePad iPhone software, but I haven't found it yet! Images from our trip to Sandwich have been reduced on my Mac.
I read with interest Bill's article on the sand lizard introduction at Sandwich. So today I'm out with the family to investigate the dunes. I'm actually posting from the beach! Very pleasant it is too!!
Kent has had a few spring like days recently. I was up on the downs at Trosley in the middle of last week with Bill Whitaker and Diasy Truckle and was getting positively hot in the bright sunshine, but despite it being a good reptile site we found nothing. Anyhow, we did at least arrange the refuges for this year’s monitoring. Daisy will be including reptiles when she does her butterfly survey.
But better luck today. I was on the downs behind Otford with Richard Jones and on a south facing, and very sunny, slope there was large male adder. This was basking on a grassland/woodland margin and made off into the woods at speed; but not before I managed to get a photo. You will see that it has the typical muddy appearance of an adder that has just emerged from hibernation.
Adders also look a bit like this before they are about to slough but such adders can be told apart as they have milky rather than clear bright eyes. If the weather turns cold again then this adder would be expected to recommence hibernation.
On a warm and breezy morning of 28 April, a truly international group of fifteen, with representatives from Spain, France, Greece and New Zealand, toured Weardale (on the green sands ridge overlooking the Weald). Then, after a pub lunch, a rather smaller group toured Chartwell. We were led by the National Trust warden Paul Naden and KRAG member Nick Johnson. Here is Paul Naden in Toy’s Hill car park briefing the Group about Weardale and Chartwell.
We split into two groups to survey refugia that had been laid two months previously. After passing various points of interest including a disused water tower, which has been developed as a bat hibernaculum, we came across swarms of curious small moths with very long antennae, these were lekking Bright Moths.
As we walked around Weardale we checked pairs of tin and felt refugia but these didn’t reveal anything; perhaps they had been placed too recently. However, there were excellent sightings of several viviparous lizards basking on the low walls of the ruined Weardale Manor (photo by A. Milopoulos).
From Weardale we crossed the road into Scords Wood and in a patch of heathland we saw another viviparous lizard and an obliging slow worm. Continuing into the woodland, there was an abundance of bluebells and other wild flowers. These were particularly evident as we entered a clearing in the woodland created by the National Trust to encourage wider biodiversity (photo by A. Milopoulos).
After walking deeper into Scords Wood we arrived at a large pond, used to supply water to Emmetts Garden in times of drought, surrounded by a cleared hillside. The area is well known for grass snakes, but despite our checking none were seen (photo by A. Milopoulos).
Finally, continuing round the last stretch of woodland there were excellent views of another very photogenic viviparous lizard (Photo G. Marchais).
Six people toured Chartwell in the afternoon. At Toy’s Hill they all piled in to Paul’s Land Rover and took the roller coaster ride to Chartwell. Although we didn’t find much under the refuges laid around the estate, due at least in part to the rather warm weather, we did see a couple of young grass snakes, a slow worm and an adder (Photo G. Marchais).
We also had a great view of the house and a walk round the old swimming pool which has been largely reclaimed by nature, including great crested newts.
Weardale and Chartwell provided a great day’s walking, beautiful scenic views and sitings of all our widespread reptile species. Roll on 2008 when we can do it all over again!
Last week I promised I would be going back to take another look for herptiles in Uganda’s Mabira forest. This is a fairly topical thing to do as on 12th April there were riots in Kampala sparked by the threatened sale of 700 acres of this reserve for planting sugar cane. This cost five people their lives and many injured (see BBC news story here). So it was in a spirit of solidarity that I set forth as an eco-tourist.
An important priority was to try and get some better shots of last week’s Rhinoceros viper. Well, I went back to exactly the same spot and it hadn’t budged an inch from its perch in the tree. Clearly showing the same kind of domestic fidelity characteristic of some of our own adders - although not normally up trees. This time I could be more relaxed about taking photos, giving me time to build a pile of logs so I could get just above the snake to get a decent portrait. The result it below. From the milky looking eyes it seems the snake is sloughing although this was less obvious in the dim light of the forest so I wonder if the effect may have something to do with the camera flash.
After a hard morning’s walking I retired to the eco-lodge for a spot of lunch only to find a Kirtland’s tree snake (Thelotornis kirtlandii) poised on the compound wall. I quickly grabbed it to ensure its safe return to the wild before it could meet a more severe fate. This snake is a rear-fanged colubrid, with rather toxic haemolytic venom, said to have been responsible for a few deaths. Apparently there is no specific antivenin antivenin for the other seriously venomous colubrid, the boomslang, is no substitute. The critter has a very wide field of vision aided by a grove in front of the eye, which you can just make out in the photo. Acute eyesight helps in catching lizards and frogs in the trees. For those with an interest in SE Asia snakes, this African Thelotornis offers and interesting mix of the behaviours and morphology of the tree-dwelling Asian genera Dendralaphis and Ahaetulla.
Not all the time was spent on scrambling after snakes and below is a small selection of wildlife from the forest floor.
Well I guess its back to adders next weekend. Hope to see some of you at Weardale on 28th April!
The weather was sunny and about 25 combined KRAG and BWAG members plus a dog turned up for the Bredhurst event. Vanessa Jones did great job enthusing local support.
I think the final reptile tally for day was six adders seen, of which five were definite or probable males, plus viviparous lizard and slow-worm.
The group set off just after 9.30 along the track into Day Valley and searched the tussocky chalk grassland on a bank North of the track. Two adders and a viviparous lizard were found basking quite quickly in this area but did not hang around long for everyone to view.
We took a track through the woodland to Arran Bank Farm hoping to find more reptiles (especially black adders), but only a very lethargic slow-worm could be found, which was seen by most people.
The group then headed back through the Hurst towards Strawberry Banks taking a refreshment break in a clearing recently felled and coppiced by BWAG to improve wildlife diversity. The walk through Strawberry banks was fairly uneventful as the grass was short and not so reptile friendly.
We continued our circular route back to the southern end of Day Valley for a final search. Just after midday and close to finishing, two adult male adders were spotted in combat just South of the main track and the other side of some mesh fencing in marginal habitat. They were so engrossed in their struggles that they were largely oblivious to around twenty people now watching them! The mesh fence proved a bit of hindrance for the keen photographers!!
Martin and Sophie Hendy later found a female nearby after most of the group had moved on. One more male adder was later found in the valley.
It was now around 20 deg C and and time to head back to the village hall and finish. A few KRAG members then took a quick visit to nearby Queensdown Warren which turned up an immature adder and a viviparous lizard. It was now about 2.30 pm, very warm and time for us all to depart.
As principal ecologist for Calumma Ecological Services, I am able to put my interest in reptiles and amphibians to good effect. Like most folks that work with wildlife, my activities extend beyond just 'the job' and I am also involved with several local conservation groups. Being the county recorder for reptiles and amphibians in Kent certainly helps me to fill in those spare moments when I'm not busy with the kids!
Calumma Ecological Services is a Kent based ecological consultancy that specialises in protected species surveys and habitat assessments.
Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group
For more information about Kent's reptiles and amphibians visit the Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group's website.
Submit a Record Have you seen a frog in your garden pond? Better yet an adder while out walking?! If you would like to let KRAG know about an amphibian or reptile observation, please complete the online recording card.
Recording Diary KRAG organises a full programme of events throughout the year. For more details about forthcoming attractions, visit the KRAG web site.
Old Blog Posts Still Available Archived posts in the old blog are still available - and will be for ever if I don't work out how to import them into this new site!
Amphibian and Reptile Group of South Lancashire
For more information about the reptiles and amphibians found in Lancashire, visit the ARGSL website.