Field weekend: 12th September

This weekend I visited some sites for reptiles and amphibians close to Sheffield as well as in the Peak District in Derbyshire. I was guided by Carl Corbidge who knows these parts well and and was very knowledgable in regard to finding herps and other wildlife.

On Saturday the weather was hot, about 21C and not a cloud in the sky. After Carl picked me up from Sheffield train station we immediately set out to an urban wetland area. Despite being surrounded by housing estates this area is quite rich in Grass snakes (Natrix natrix). Without too much searching we found 3 adult individuals on an overgrown embankment, one of which was caught as it fled into a patch of brambles. While searching for snakes we turned some debris and found an unexpected pair of Great crested newts (Triturus cristatus). It is important to remember that these wonderul amphibians are one of our fully protected species, so after discovering the newts we did not interfere, except taking a quick photo and replacing the cover back over them.

Grass snake (Natrix natrix helvetica)

Grass snake (Natrix natrix helvetica)

Grass snake (Natrix natrix) feigning death

Grass snake (Natrix natrix) feigning death

Great crested newt (Triturus cristatus)

Great crested newt (Triturus cristatus)

After this first success Carl drove us to a site in the southern part of the Peak District which is good Slow-worm (Anguis fragilis) habitat. Although it was hot, we found 3 specimens beneath plastic sheets that Carl had put there on purpose, to help get a better idea of population densities of this very secretive reptile.  Furthermore, we found a dead juvenile specimen at the side of a track.

Slow worm (Anguis fragilis)

Slow worm (Anguis fragilis)

Slow worm (Anguis fragilis)

Slow worm (Anguis fragilis)

Slow worm (Anguis fragilis)

Slow worm (Anguis fragilis)

The final stop of the day was the Adder (Vipera berus) site I had visited earlier in the year. It was still hot and we couldn’t find any specimens, except a sloughed skin. As the weather cooled down a lady walking on the track ahead of us shouted there was a snake on the path, but by the time we got there it had vanished! After a final unsuccessful attempt at finding an adder, we spotted a few black, juvenile Viviparous lizards (Zootoca vivipara) and I was then surprised to find a Common toad (Bufo bufo) moving around in the heather.

Common toad (Bufo bufo)

Common toad (Bufo bufo)

Species found:

Common toad (Bufo bufo)

Great crested newt (Triturus cristatus)

Viviparous lizard (Zootoca vivipara)

Slow worm (Anguis fragilis)

Grass snake (Natrix natrix)

Adder (Vipera berus) slough

On Sunday, while looking for Adders on the Derbyshire moors, we were lucky enough to spot another very rare British species, the Water vole (Arvicola amphibius).  In fact we were very surprised to find it feeding at the edge of a stream, and Carl was even able to get a good photo of it. Since 2008 Water voles have been made a fully protected species after 95% of the vole population has been lost in the last century in the UK.

Water vole (C) Carl Corbidge

Water vole (C) Carl Corbidge

By Matt Wilson

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