Oh, I do love a Challenge!

I set myself a bit of a challenge the other week – and at times I rather wished I hadn’t!  I say I set myself the challenge, but in reality it was born out of a comment that I picked up on – ‘had anyone seen any baby (you’ll find out later!) yet this year??’  The answer came back as a bit of a silence.  It seemed that nobody had yet – so I manfully stood up to the plate (my own plate of course) and took on the task.

Now, I’m not sure how long I can keep you guessing on this, as I haven’t really thought it through to a conclusion where I reveal if I did see it, and if I did, what it is..  My Twitter followers will probably know already – if they take any notice of my tweets that is.  If you’re not a Twitter follower of mine and want to get ahead of the game for the next blog post, I’m there as @spuddrs.

I’m also trying to cut down on my waffling and use more images.  So far, it’s been all waffle and no images, so not the best of starts I’d say… 🙂

Anyway, back to the challenge.  It involves finding a baby something as you know, but that’s not much good without a picture as well – so off I went onto the heath, laden with camera during every spare hour of my leave (when I wasn’t painting walls, washing patios etc etc – which I did find rather satisfying I might add), and every lunchtime during my working days.  So, time for some images of what I did see…

Soakin' up the rays!

You looking at me?

Firstly, I was (still am) amazed by the number of smooth snakes I found basking. I saw one in 2009 and two last year.  Some of my colleagues tell me they have never seen one out basking in the open.  So, you judge just how amazed I was when I tell you that I saw SEVEN in two days!  Add another two that I saw on friday just gone – that’s 11 smooth snakes basking in about 10 days.  I have a theory that they were mainly females about to give birth – certainly they were very large bodied, and the one that I did check was a heavily pregnant female.  I left the others where they were as I doubt they would appreciate being disturbed if my theory is correct.  One was a male, basking in preparation for sloughing his skin – his blue/milky eyes being a sure sign of that.

Large Skipper. Actually not very big at all, but it is called a Large Skipper. Yes, there is also a small skipper.

Grayling, almost caught with open wings..

Grayling butterfly. Not to be confused with Grayling the fish of course. (the wings are a good ID pointer)

Small copper - bit of a cracker.

Plenty of butterflies, to be expected really.  Graylings are a real tester.  They fly around, usually landing on a path or bit of dead wood, immediately bring their wings together, shuffle around until they cast no shadow and often so that they are head on to you.  I have only seen one image this year of a Grayling with it’s wings open.  That’s a whole new challenge that I’m staying well away from!

Keeled skimmer. It's a dragonfly.

Golden ringed. It's a dragonfly with go faster stripes and mega cool factor.

Lots of dragonflies as well.  Again, no surprise there.  Finally, in addition to the earlier smooth snakes, plenty of reptiles -as expected.

Male sand lizard. on sand. as it happens.


Another sand lizard, challenging me to a staring contest. I won!

Mrs Adder. This one has taken to basking on a path, so I have to watch out for her!

On quite a few occasions I managed to hit the reptile jackpot so to speak, seeing all six species in one session.  Lunchtime of Thursday 11th August was by far the best in that respect as I managed to tick off all six in 27 minutes!

Time to wrap up this post then, which I suppose has to involve me unveiling the prize I was after.  Well, the baby is actually called a hatchling, is about an inch and a half or so in length, rarely stays still for longs and moves as fast as a rocket on full boosters!

I did succeed eventually.  I saw a flash of movement in the heather, and waited to see if it would emerge.  After a couple of minutes of kneeling on the path, staring into a patch of heather and hoping that nobody wandered by – I was rewarded!

Sand lizard hatchling - a speed machine!

Well, it was always going to be some sort of reptile wasn’t it?  There is a story behind this little fellow.  The fire that ripped through the heath in June, missed the block where this one hatched – by some miracle.  It is on a small pensinsula that juts out into the burnt heath, and I really have no idea why it didn’t burn like all around it.  Fortunately for him, it didn’t and he survived.

Fortunate for me as well -or I might still be out there, trying to meet that challenge of finding the first sand lizard hatchling of the year!

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6 Responses to Oh, I do love a Challenge!

  1. Anita Harper says:

    Really enjoyed reading this Steve, fab photos too. Hoping all is well with you. Anita

  2. Jane says:

    Well done on the challenge! You must know where most of the reptiles hang out now! Went out on the heath myself on Sunday – only saw one reptile (a very fast common lizard). Did see a lot of “really interesting” bees and wasps 🙂 and unfortunately lots and lots of people… grrrr!

    • spudders says:

      Hi Jane,

      Yes, I know what you mean about lots of people – it’s their dogs running around through the heath while thye wander on oblivious to what it’s doing or where it is that gets me. Not all dog owners I should quickly add!

      I did spend quite a while watching some digger wasps, before I got on to more importnat matters – such as reptiles! 😉

  3. Hi there
    it seems that in reptile survey circles it is assumed that smooth snakes are only found under tin or other objects – when they bask they are very cryptic so that the surveyor rarely picks them up – however all the majority of smooth snakes I have found, throughout my 11 years as a reptile surveyor, were spotted basking in the open away from artificial refugia – often on prominent features such as a gorse bush stump, a pile of animal dung and on one occasion on the edge of the hard shoulder on the A31.

    I know that people who have carried out research on these animals have stated that they tend to use visual encounter over using artificial cover objects – In Europe the animals are also detected partially or fully basking – it is probably down to the keen eye of the surveyor – people tend to focus too much on refugia missing many animals between them.

    Counting adders next spring would be good to see where you are – this would be vital to help the rarest widespread species the adder…….

  4. spudders says:

    Hi Jonathon,

    Yes, it certainly seems that now I know where to look that I am finding far more basking smooth snakes – although refugia does work quite well of course.
    Am on the case with the Make the Adder Count project.



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