Follow in Nigel's Footsteps

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Snake!!...

Great morning out on Tuesday with Nigel Marven, exploring Wareham Forest in Dorset. One of our prime targets on this lowland sandy heath were Sand Lizards but sadly the overcast skies denied us the opportunity to see any of those despite extensive searching.

Dorset's lowland sandy heaths are a rich habitat to explore.

A couple of Woodlarks were heard briefly calling but vanished and could not be relocated. There were plenty of other birds singing though and it was nice to hear Chiffchaffs, Meadow Pipits, Stonechats and see a few Dartford Warblers to remind us it was Spring. We turned our attention back to reptiles once again and discovered our first Slow Worm Anguis fragilis of the year before relocating to another potentially good spot for Sand Lizards. By now the sky had lightened a little and it was mild enough for activity but without a break in the cloud to get them basking, we were unable to find any. A thorough search of the area failed to turn up even a Common Lizard although these emerging Wood ants Formica rufa provided a welcome distraction. They were clumped neatly together warming themselves up - not how you usually see them. The slightest vibration close to the nest brought them erupting out like a volcano though.

Nigel capturing a close-up of the main mass

Southern Wood Ants Formica rufa, Wareham Forest
Another nest, another intriguing pattern of ant bodies

We made one last effort to search for herps in the hope of at least seeing an adder and instead were rewarded by this, a lovely male Smooth Snake Coronella austriaca my first snake of the year and what a great one to start with!

Smooth Snake Coronella austriaca, male
A real beauty and totally unexpected after the
general lack of reptiles.
Smooth Snake Coronella austriaca, male
Portrait showing the buffish throat, rostral and nasal scales, a
very smart individual.
Smooth Snake Coronella austriaca, male
The only way to celebrate such a find was a pub lunch!

Later in the day we checked my garden pond and added Common Toad Bufo bufo to the day's tally along with a few Palmate Newts.  The toad numbers have rapidly depleted over the last few nights falling from just over 300 at the weekend to about 80 now. A great way to finish off a great day.

Typically the weather the following day was just perfect for Sand Lizards...just means we'll have to pay another visit soon.

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