On Sunday Steve Foot accompanied by Natalie White and Owain Gabb went to heathland in Surrey in search of rare reptiles. Steve regularly undertakes survey visits to this heathland and other sites as part of a monitoring scheme run by the Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group. The Surrey ARG undertake surveys of approximately 40 sites spread throughout Surrey with new sites in neighbouring Hampshire, Berkshire and West Sussex included this year. A number of voluntary surveyors (of which Steve is one) survey these sites each year allowing the Surrey ARG to monitor the populations and the distribution of reptiles across each of the sites.
A number of the sites in Surrey and Hampshire support populations of all six native reptile species. This heathland gives surveyors a chance to observe the two rarest British reptile species: sand lizards and smooth snakes. Sand lizards and smooth snakes are present on the heathland in large numbers, with smooth snakes in particular attracted to the artificial refugia distributed across the site by the Surrey ARG. Both species are European protected species and a licence is required to allow disturbance to and handling of these animals. Once a reptile is uncovered or spotted, the sex, life stage and precise location is recorded. In addition to this, it is important that a photograph of the top of each smooth snake head is taken as the scale pattern of the snake’s head is unique to each animal allowing further understanding of this species to be gained including the age of the snakes and home range that they inhabit. On Sunday Steve, Natalie and Owain captured 4 smooth snakes, a sand lizard and a grass snake. A very productive survey!
Photo Copyright © Steven Foot 2011