On the second day of my work experience with Matt, we went to do a reptile survey near Maidenhead. The area was due to be turn into a bowling green, but before the developers could begin construction, they needed to have a reptile survey done in order to determine how many reptiles were living there and whether or not they needed to be relocated first. There had already been reports of Slowworms in this part of Maidenhead, and so it was Matt’s job to find out what was living here and how many. Matt had already placed out pieces of roofing felt, like the one above, in order to attract reptiles that needed cover and a place to warm their bodies.
We went on Matt’s fourth trip to the site, hoping to find around 8 – 12 slowworms hiding in the grass, as well as the (somewhat legendary) silver grey slowworm Eric, a large male with fairly rare blue specks, named by Matt. At first, the only thing that was hiding under the roofing felt were colonies of ants, which crawled onto our arms, and left us with little irritating bites. However, on the fourth piece of tarp, we found a small female, whose gender we could identify by the brown stripe running down her sides. Overall we found 10 of the legless lizards, including a beige juvenile and a large dark brown male, pictured below.
Unfortunately, the illustrious Eric did not turn up today, but we did find another unexpected visitor underneath the tarp. As I reached down to scoop up a lizard for a better look, Matt waved me away. He had spotted the dark form of a snake underneath the grass, and for a scary moment had thought it an adder, waiting to lash out at my unsuspecting fingers. Upon closer inspection we found that it was a young grass snake, only just turned mature. It’s skin had turned almost completely black and it’s eyes where milky instead of clear, because it was ready to moult its old skin. The black scales would soon fall away to reveal new brown-white scales. The two large scales kept over it’s eyes to protect them had begun to lift away, causing them to fog up with the cloudy colours. It was fantastic to see.
We returned all of the roofing felt to it’s original place, and moved on to the next part of our day. Matt would have to return to this site another three times before his survey was complete, and then pass on the results to another ecologist for assessment and relocation.