Sunday, 30 September 2012

3 British Reptiles in 10 minutes.

Great trip down to the Avalon Marshes centre with the children to enjoy the tractor trailer rides, withy fish making and pond dipping. Caught a great diving beetle, as we did last time, and was again astonished at it's size and vigour, if you were a baby newt or tadpole you would be very intimidated by this insect, clearly the biggest feistiest beetle I have ever seen in the UK.

We rode through the Shapwick Heath reserve in the trailer tractor, along the track by the south drain, looking out for otters and birds with the children clutching binoculars and clip boards. Not a lot about but beautiful wind swept reed beds and rafts of coot, swans and ducks. Towards the end of the ride we all got off to look for reptiles, at the same spot that I hunted in vain earlier in the year, and we carefully stepped down off the trailer to avoid scaring anything away with vibrations. The guide was excellent and sure enough beneath the first piece of corrugated iron we saw two slow worms and a grass snake. The grass snake made a quick exit, (*see picture beneath), but the slow worm was predictably slower and the guide pointed out the moving eyelids which differentiate a legless lizard from a snake as it warmed up in his hand and became more lively. Under a second sheet we saw 2 further small grass snakes and 2 more slow worms, all trying to warm up under the metal on an early autumn morning. We went to look at the compost heap, where baby grass snakes had hatched earlier in the year from eggs inside the warm heap, and the guide pointed out that slow worms give birth to live young. Then amazingly we saw an adder at the back of the compost heap but as we tried to see it clearly it slipped away into the hedge and we were only able to glimpse its zig zag back retreating from the attention. (*see photo of the bottom of the hedge near the adder!) It would be great to sneak back in a few days to try to get a clearer look at the adder as I'd love the children to be able to identify the differences clearly for themselves.They will certainly remember today and I have certainly never seen three of our resident reptiles together in one location within moments of each other, such a terrific end of summer experience.

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