In January the DVLP put a call out for volunteers interested in reptile conservation and we were overwhelmed by the response from people interested in getting actively involved.
There are 6 native species of reptile in the UK, four of which can be found in the Dearne Valley. Unfortunately, little is known about their distribution meaning that their conservation can often be overlooked.
As part of our environmental programme we are aiming to fill some of the current gaps in ecological data by coordinating a number of volunteer led surveys. These are being conducted across a wide range of prioritised ex-colliery and woodland sites within the valley and are combined with the provision of training for local volunteers in ecological survey techniques and Identification. With more biological records there is a greater understanding of the rarity and fragility of habitat in the Dearne, which in turn supports a number of these rare and misunderstood species.
The surveys have been going really well with one exception……the weather! Ideally Feb-March is the right time for adders to start emerging from hibernation, during which they can often be seen basking in the sun on a warm day. Some have started to emerge in Derbyshire already, even on less favourable days. Later in the month grass snakes, slow worms and common lizards usually follow. As it stands spring is a busy time for our reptile volunteers as we try and cover a total of approximately 15 sites, with repeat visits to each.
(Roseanna our Community Officer, with volunteers Linda and Beth, on a very cold and wet day, Definitely no reptiles out! But good to look at habitat potential for a more favourable day)
To date we have carried out ten surveys across five of our priority sites, a number of them ex-collieries now considered to be of low value for wildlife by many. However, brownfield sites are some of the best for wildlife in the UK, often supporting a range of rare plant and animal species. Many also offer a rich mosaic of habitat including those especially favoured by reptiles, for example mature woodland, bracken, heathland and scrub, with lots of open areas to bask in the sun.
(A snapshot of some of our great volunteers, ready to get out and survey)
We have a total of 32 volunteers registered with the project and a core team of 15 who are working alongside one of our Community Project Officers and local reptile expert John Newton. Our volunteers come from wide range of backgrounds and age groups, which has been beneficial for utilising individuals skills, local knowledge and interest, as well as providing new skills to those with an interest in natural history.
(Community Officer Roseanna with local expert John Newton out on site)
We have had no sightings yet as the weather has been less than desirable, yet we have been able to prioritise areas for survey potential. We have identified some fantastic habitat with huge potential, engaged with a wide range of volunteers and locals and had a number of positive sightings from local residents – including an abundance of grass snakes and the potential for adders.
(Perfect habitat potential, a mix of dead bracken, scrub and bare areas with rocks to bask on a south facing slope)
(Anna and Katie assessing another area with huge potential for reptiles)
(Another potential site with huge habitat availability, a mix of heather, scrub, bracken and bare areas)
If you would like to get involved with the project please email DVLP@Barnsley.gov.uk for more information. Full training and support is provided.
Locations in the Dearne
This event can be found at the following locations:
The former site of Monk Bretton Colliery, now a reclaimed brownfield site and haven for wildlife. The site is open mosaic habitat, including a variety of…
West Haigh Woods
West Haigh Woods is a large ancient woodland area located near Grimethorpe, South Yorkshire.
New Park Springs
New Park Springs is a site comprised of wetlands, grassland and woodlands located in Grimethorpe, South Yorkshire.
Barnsley Main Colliery, Barnsley
The Barnsley Main Colliery is the remains of large deep mining site located in the Barnsley area in South Yorkshire.
Wombwell Wood, Wombwell
Wombwell Wood is an ancient semi-natural broadleaf woodland located in the Wobwell, South Yorkshire.