Open University Reptiles Workshop

Saturday May 1st 2010

Trip Report

Portland, Admiralty Quarries
Our targets here were Slow-worm, Common Lizard and Adder. The first tin we turned over held several Slow-worms of various ages, the golden juveniles standing out brightly. With the cloudy conditions turning colder and more breezy we weren't too optimistic about finding any Common Lizards but I was hopeful that my 'reliable' pair of Adders would be at home. Reaching their regular basking site (the remains of a cast-iron kitchen range) I could see that the site had been disturbed recently and there was no sign of the snakes which have been a reliable sight here for the past 10 years or so.

Portland, Eastcliff Quarries
The next site is home to a colony of Wall Lizards, but the breezy conditions kept them well-hidden and we had to leave without seeing any sign of them. A Barn Owl was an unexpected bonus though, and a great rarity for Portland.

Bovington, Higher Hyde Heath
Here the lizards were out in numbers, running all over the grass and logs in spite of the cloudy conditions. Both Common and Sand Lizards were seen, but sadly there was no sign of the usual Grass Snake in the pond. Perhaps the water was too cold.

Wareham, Great Ovens Hill
This was always going to be the highlight of the day, and with the help of Jonathan McGowan of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation we were soon looking at a fine adult Smooth Snake, our first (and only) snake of the day. Actually this beautiful beast took some finding but in the process we found a huge selection of other wildlife including numerous Slow-worms, Brimstone, Speckled Wood and Peacock butterflies, Emperor Moth, a Brimstone moth and a longhorn beetle (Rhagium bifasciatum). Birds included seberal Buzzards and a splendid male Hobby hunting over the heath right in front of us.

Winfrith, Tadnoll Heath
Our final attempt at finding some more snakes was a vain attempt in the fresh afternoon breeze but we were happy with a number of interesting sightings including a very early Red Admiral.

To summarise a remarkable day, 4 out of the 6 native British reptiles were seen in conditions that were not conducive to finding cold-blooded animals. In recompense a great variety of wildlife was seen and everyone finished the day knowing a good deal more than we started.

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