Sunday, 30 September 2012

New Website - Check it Out!


My new website is now up and running, check it out here -http://www.robwardwildlifephotography.co.uk/#
Massive thanks to Scott Passmore for his time, building this site for me.
http://www.facebook.com/scottkpassmore?fref=ts

Don't worry, I will still keep this blog updated with all things snake related in the Forest of Dean.

Rob

Friday, 31 August 2012

Full Survey Results (with photos)

Full Survey Results From New Reptile Site - 31.08.2012


Had loads to do at home, but the reptiles always come first and as the sun was shining I had to get back out there to complete a full survey of the new site.
I was accompanied by my nephew and good mate Paul Skelton who logged every single find for me while I tried my best to grab a photo. Thanks mate!

At times it sounded something like this....

"Adder" - "Big Un" - "Female" - "click, click" - "And Another" - "Male" - "Monster" - "click click"

If anyone was walking up the nearby path I expect they were dialling 999!

So, without boring you will any more silliness, here are the pics from today. PS: I will have to film my surveying one day, just to give you a giggle, but to also show how it's done.

Total Findings Below

Male Adder - 4
Female Adder - 6
Jevenile Adder - 2
Grass Snake - 2
Slow-worm - 3
Common Lizard - 27

Click on all photographs for larger view


Firstly, here is a photograph of what we had to contend with. Surveying in areas like this can be extremely hard due to the long grass, which makes finding reptiles even harder.
All photographs are straight out of the camera, how I saw them and how they are meant to be seen.

Survey Area

SLOW-WORMS

Here are a couple of slow-worms. I could have easily moved them for a better photograph, but I never do this as I like to walk away knowing they have not been disturbed. The same goes for the snakes.
As mentioned earlier, these photographs are for illustration and record purposes only, I was not there to get an award winning shot.

Slow-worm

Slow-worm


ADDERS

Tell tale signs were around and this sloughed adder skin was a sure sign that an adder was not far away.

Sloughed Female Adder Skin


This male adder was basking at the bottom of a small grassy bank. Quite a large male, but not the biggest of the day.

Male Adder

You may have noticed in the previous photograph that there was a hole in the grass to the side of the male adder. If you did, well done as this is where he will bolt down if a possible threat appears. Among other predators, buzzards take adders, so this is a quick escape route for him.

Bolt Hole with Male Adder
This fella was humongous, easily the largest male adder I have seen in a long time, if not the largest ever. Hard to get a true scale of how big he actually was, but believe me, he was big!

Large Male Adder



I have already mentioned how hard it can be surveying in long grass and this illustrates it perfectly.
Now click on the photograph and look to the bottom of the frame. You will notice a male adder in the grass and I was kneeling not far from him when I took this shot, totally missed him and only realised he was there when I uploaded my pics to the PC!
So focused on the one I could see, I forgot to check for others. School boy error!

Male and Female Adders


Here is another female coiled up like a turban.

Female Adder

This is a female adder preparing to slough (shed her skin). You will notice that her eye has turned blue and this is where fluid is building up between the new inner and old outer skin layers. The fluid helps the skin peel off.
A snakes eye is covered by a scale and as this is part of the skin, it also comes away. As the old eye scale lifts it severely impairs the snakes vision.

Adder preparing to slough

This is something a little different; a young female adder basking in, or rather on a gorse bush. Over the millennia snakes have come to realise that habitat like gorse and bramble is one of the safest places to live and bask as not many predators can get to them.

Young Female Adder 


Slightly different angle and zoomed in to show how she is perched on the gorse and bramble.

Close Up of same adder



LIZARDS

Too many lizards to photograph, but here are just a few. The lizard is a main part of the adder and grass snakes diet, so no wonder there are loads of snakes around as we counted 27 lizards in total, with loads missed as you never see them all.

Common Lizard
If you look to the right of this shot you will notice a cylindrical stripy body. This is the body of a large grass hopper and it looks like this lizard has it's eye on it!
This site is so well balanced and it shows just how the decline in one species (like the grass hopper) could have serious consequences right up, and down the food chain!
No grass hoppers means less lizards and less lizards means less snakes - Oops!

Common Lizard and Grass Hopper

Common Lizard

Common Lizard


GRASS SNAKE

Last but by no means least, the grass snake. We recorded two on this visit; one didn't hang around, but we saw this one in plenty of time.

Grass snake basking

I managed to get a little closer and with the zoom this is her, basking in the grass. They are hard to find and even harder to photograph, so I am pleased with this result.

Same grass snake, up close

What a day and well worth the effort. If you would like to get involved and help manage habitats like this, survey, or just record while someone else surveys, please do get in touch.

GlosARG is Gloucestershire's very own Reptile and Amphibian Conservation Group and we are here to help you get involved. Young or mature, we welcome all.

Visit us at the following links or just email me direct.



Thanks

Rob :-)


New Reptile Habitat Discovered

Great news for Gloucestershire as GlosARG has discovered a new unique reptile habitat!


Scott Passmore and I (Founders of GlosARG) decided to survey a new location on Thursday 30th August and we were stunned by what we found.
In just 30 minuets of surveying we found the following...

Mature Female Adder - x3
Mature Male Adder - x1
Juvenile Adder - x1
Mature Grass Snake - x2
Common Lizard - x6
Slow-worm - x2

It goes without saying that this is a "significant discovery", especially as we only had 30 minuets due to time restrictions.
We only covered a very small area where this habitat is concerned and we are confident that when thoroughly surveyed, this site will produce upwards of 20 snakes. In fact we are confident that this could be one of the most important discoveries in the Gloucestershire area for many years.
Due to this, I have contact the right people with the hope that this site is preserved and protected as a site of special interest, so that these remarkable reptiles can carry on thriving.

Why are there so many reptiles at this one site? The answer to that is quite simple. See list below.

  1. There is a healthy food source for all reptiles present
  2. Although the site is frequented regularly my members of the public, the habitat and therefore the reptiles themselves have been undisturbed
  3. Most importantly the corridors the reptiles use to move around have been undisturbed
To elaborate on the 3rd point; corridors are grassy rides, ditches, hedgerows and forest edges, which have not been cut off by walls, roads and building development, allowing these creatures to move around. This is vital, especially during the breeding season.
When an area is developed the construction companies sometimes leave a nature area, such as a small plot of woodland, field or park and these areas may have once been, or in some cases still are home to reptiles. Unlike the lizard, which is capable of climbing, our snakes and the slow-worm are not and are therefore isolated. Over time, due to inbreeding these animals become infertile and slowly die off; something that is now being seen and recorded throughout the whole of the UK.

We must stop this practice now and start to think greener, to protect all wildlife as once the concrete is down, the damage is irreversible.

Please support GlosARG by clicking the links below, thanks!




Rob


 


Friday, 13 July 2012

GlosARG Update


We are off and running with our new group; GlosARG! However, we now have a new website and Facebook page, so use the links on this post.
_______________________________________

Gloucestershire Amphibian and Reptile Group has been set up for the conservation of all our native reptiles and amphibians throughout Gloucestershire.
We are an affiliated group of ARG UK.

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

If you would like to get involved, please contact us through one of the links below. We have a website, Facebook and Twitter pages, so you can easily get hold of us.
The feeling you get from knowing you have done something to conserve wildlife can not be beaten, so please get involved. It is fun, interesting and educational.
Get the kids involved and give them a passion, which will carry them well through life. What a feeling it would be to see your own children pass this gift onto your grandchildren!

We have only been running for a few weeks and in this time we have already discovered a "new" Great Crested Newt colony in the Forest of Dean.
These newts are endangered and protected by European law, so we couldn't have hoped for a better start!

You can reach us through the following links below.

GlosARG Website
Facebook
Twitter

ARG UK

Thank you in advance.

Rob

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Sign up to GlosARG Today!


GlosARG


If you are not already aware, along with a good friend Scott Passmore I have founded Gloucestershire's very own Reptile and Amphibian Conservation Group. This group is only a couple of weeks old yet we have already discovered a new colony of Great Crested Newts living in an old, secluded pond deep in the Forest of Dean.
A great start to our new venture and we hope for many more discoveries in the years to come.

If you live in the Gloucestershire area and want to help us by becoming involved. Please visit our website, Facebook page or even Twitter. You can contact us on all of these pages and we will be delighted to sign you up!
I have been finding, surveying and managing areas for the adder and grass snake for years. In turn this helps other reptiles and amphibians in the area. I have a wealth of experience and I would be delighted to pass this on to the right people so that together, we can make Gloucestershire a recognised place where Reptile and Amphibian Conservation is concerned.

See links under adder pic.

Female Adder

Rob

Friday, 29 June 2012

Adder Macro!

PLEASE VISIT MY PREVIOUS POST FOR A NEW ARG GROUP IN GLOUCESTERSHIRE

Another very special encounter with a female adder recently. I took quite a few images, but here is just one as a teaser!

Female Adder (Vipera berus)



Rob

"New" ARG Gloucestershire


With a friend I have started a new amphibian and reptile conservation group in the Forest of dean, Gloucestershire.
This group is called GlosARG and we are an affiliated group of ARG UK.

Our aim is to.....

Raise awareness
Recruit volunteers
Survey Gloucestershire
Manage existing habitats
Create new habitats
Achieve protection status on existing and new habitats
See Gloucestershire recognised as a special place for Herptile Conservation

This isn't going to happen overnight and it isn't going to be easy, but with our passion, focus and some much needed help, I am sure we can achieve our goals.
Until now Gloucestershire did not have a ARG group, so Scott and I decided to change this and show the world the wonders of this special place.
Please contact me if you would like to help. We will be organising walks, talks as well as teaching volunteers how to survey all the magnificent amphibians and reptiles we have in Gloucestershire.

ARG Website

Follow us on...
Twitter
Facebook


As well as many other species, these are just some of the amphibians and reptiles we will be surveying and looking after throughout Gloucestershire.


Great Crested Newt



Adder



Grass Snake



Common Lizard



Toads


Frogs


Rob

Monday, 18 June 2012

Adder Kiss!

In this short adder film you will see a male adder that is preparing to slough, or shed his skin. When this happens the snake's eye scale turns blue as fluid builds up between the new inner and old outer skin. The fluid helps the snake discard the old skin.
When this happens the snake's vision is severely impaired and it can cause irregular behaviour, like you will see in this clip. 
Adders do not generally approach large mammals as they have identified them as a possible threat, not a food source, but when their vision is impaired they are attracted to the heat source as they can not identify what it is, or how big it is. All they see is a heat signature and a possible meal. In this case he was focusing on my camera and my hands.

I was lying on my belly using my elbows as support when he started to approach me and this is when I had to quickly shuffle backwards. At one point he actually licked the front of my camera!

I hope you enjoy my video.


video

Rob

Friday, 15 June 2012

Adder Behaviour Video

Here we have some video footage of adders in their natural environment, with no disturbance. I like filming the snakes in this way as it shows their true natural behaviour, however, it does mean setting up the camera and sitting back to wait for them to actually move and this can take some time!
I have increased the playback speed on some of the snakes featured as they are quite slow movers and this gives the film an extra special look.

PS: The black one is the only recorded melanistic adder found in the Forest of Dean and I was over the moon when I found it. Might never see one again in this area and as I haven't seen him for a while this snake ranks right up there as one of my best ever adder encounters.


video

Rob

Sunday, 11 March 2012

First Grass Snake of 2012

Not been able to get out much due to other commitments and work, but I did manage to get out for a couple of hours earlier and I found a nice basking grass snake.
Although I did manage to get close, which is quite hard with the grass snake, it kept it's head hidden from view!
Still nice to see and I'm sure there will be many more encounters where I can get a clear head shot.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Counting Down the Weeks!

Why does the first two months of the year take so long to pass? Not that I'm wishing my life away you understand, but snakes are my passion and waiting for them to emerge from hibernation feels like an eternity!

Rob