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Sun 28th April 2013 20:42 by Graham Smith
Reptiles
It was interesting to read Ian's piece on the emergence of reptiles in Epping Forest this year. On January 4th, at Blue House Farm, North Fambridge, a Slow-worm was rescued from the warden's cat and released in his compost heap while on the same day a Common Lizard was watched sunbathing on one of the handrails leading to a bird hide. There was an unusually mild, sunny spell at the time with the temperature reaching 12`-13`C on two or three days. Great, we all thought, we are in for a mild winter. Soon afterwards the east winds set in and thereafter it was a case of dejavu for the next three months. We are still playing catch up. My first Adder of the season was a female at The Backwarden, Danbury on March 15th on a sheltered bank of a regular hibernaculum. The females are often the first to appear at this particular site, although the males usually follow shortly afterwards, but this year I did not see one of the latter until 29th. The weather in between was mostly cold and windy but as I only visit the site with Barry, the warden, once a week I could easily have missed an earlier emergence. A Common Lizard also appeared for the first time here on 15th while a Slow-worm was present under one of the reptile tins at Blue House on 27th. Back at The Backwarden Barry dug up a very tiny (and very agile|) Slow-worm while removing gorse on 10th April, by which time there were five Adders basking on the banks of the hibernaculum and tadpoles had begun to hatch from Frogspawn in the Sphagnum Bog. A Grey Heron was watched swallowing a Great Crested Newt at BH the next day! My first Grass Snake of the year was seen during a Breeding Bird Survey there on 18th, followed by another hunting amphibians in one of the ditches on 23rd, by which time Lizards were out in abundance. I am sure regular 'reptile watrchers' at The Backwarden could come up with a different (and perhaps earlier) set of dates though.
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