Monday, 30 April 2018

Post 483 - Riveting Reptile Surveying with Wonderful Wildwatch

Misty moorland survey for reptiles!
Hey everyone, as many of you will know I’m involved with a wonderful project called the Wild Watch. For those who don’t the Wild Watch is a 3 year long Heritage Lottery funded project that is trying to both survey wildlife in the Nidderdale area, but also spread awareness about how much some species are in need.

Those of you that see my blogs regularly will know I've done a couple of posts on this before - Post 481 on a nice Owl video I got to do and Post 468 and Post 472 on a river survey I did as part of the project last year.

A reptile refugia
Of course, there needs to be quite a lot of people to survey such a huge area, so I, among many others, go to ‘lessons’ held by the Wild Watch which enable us to go out and do some proper surveying!

Some of the survey party
Recently they held one of these days for reptile surveys, so me and my Dad jumped at the opportunity and went to see what we could learn. The day started off with us being told what species we would be looking for, which included grass snakes, adders and slow-worms, all great species that I would love to see more of. Then, we were told how to put out the refuges which would attract the reptiles. They’re essentially just pieces of roofing felt which we’d leave in sunny spots; when the reptiles look for somewhere to warm themselves in the morning they’d find these, which had absorbed the sun’s heat, and just wait on it until they had enough energy to start hunting.

So, once we were told all of this, we went out to a lovely piece of Nidderdale moor, where we were shown how to do this in action. It was quite an overcast day, so there wasn’t much of an opportunity of us actually seeing anything, it was hard at first even to see the Red Grouse that were about, but it was still good to get out into the field and actually do what we’d been taught. All the transects we’re given are 1km long, so seeing as we have 10 refuges to put down, we have to put them 100m apart, but we also have to make sure we put them in a good spot for the reptiles.
My transect from a little stone arch at the end.

We were taken to all of the refuges that Gordon, our trainer for the survey, had marked along this transect with a GPS, and then told how to check them to see if there’s anything using them. We have to wear thick, protective gloves that are to help protect our hands if an adder attacks us when we find one. We also have to try and approach with the wind coming from the refuge, so the reptile doesn’t smell us coming and flee. Once we’d been around this patch of moor and seen all 10 of the refuges, we headed back to base camp and headed back home with all our new found knowledge. It was a really great day and I must thank the Wild Watch team for giving me and everyone else that attended this opportunity, and to teach us everything you did!
Hoping to see some of these amazing creatures!

I've been out to my transect now, which is the same one I did my river survey on. It's a fabulous place, a quite almost forgotten reservoir with thick wooded banks, so thick in fact that the trees overhang the water edge quite a way in most places. As the leaves weren't all out yet we tried to find spots where we hope the sun will be able to get through on a morning when the tree canopy has thickened up. A bit of guess work but we hope we might see a lizard or two. I have to leave them now for three weeks and give the reptiles time to find them and start to use them for heating up of a morning. It was surprising to see even on our misty moorland training session how even just a little bit of sun soon heats up the felt.
And some lovely Slow-worms!

I've not seen an Adder for a few years, despite trips to places that are known to be really good for them, so I hope that my training now will mean I see lots of them and other reptiles this year.

I'll let you know how I get on!

Hope you enjoyed,