In January 2016 the DVLP launched their reptile survey and monitoring programme with local expert John Newton. The project set out to find out more about reptile distribution in the Dearne Valley and to fill gaps in local wildlife records, paying particular attention to former colliery sites and relic woodlands.
Female Grass Snake, early morning on a local site (John Newton).
The reptile project forms part of the DVLP’s environmental surveying programme which aims to increase peoples understanding and appreciation of biodiversity in their local area. As well as to provide opportunities to gain new survey skills and help increase the information held on local wildlife in the area to help with future protection and conservation.
Linda, one of the reptile volunteers, checking habitat potential on a local site in Doncaster.
The project has proved to be a real success with 24 volunteers signed up to the project and six actively recording on a weekly basis. A total of 35 site surveys have been carried out across six individual priority sites in the Dearne Valley with high habitat potential but minimal recording effort.
The surveys got off to a slow start due to the cold weather, less than favourable with our cold blooded friends who need to bask early in the sun to kick start their daily routine. As a result we had no sightings for some time. In April snakes started emerging with the improved weather conditions. We had hoped to find adder following a number of potential sightings on one of our key sites in particular, but have had no luck yet. None the less we have been greeted with an abundance of grass snake sightings. One key sight in particular produced an incredible 23 individual sightings of different individual snakes in a two hour period, which is a good indication of a healthy and successful population. With a total of 35 sightings in the last two months across the six primary sites. In addition to our regular site surveys and monitoring, over 30 reptile tins and mats have been placed on three of the six key sites in the last four weeks, which will substantially help to maximise our survey efforts as reptiles seek cover objects to get warm.
Linda helping John Newton to put some artificial cover objects down on a local site in Barnsley.
Volunteers have teamed up with Roseanna from the DVLP team and local expert John Newton to carry out the reptile surveys. Full training has been provided and participants are vastly improving their survey and identification skills. It is hoped many of the volunteers will feel confident and empowered to carry out their own reptile surveys in the future and continue to contribute to local records centres. As well as to educate and inspire others with their conservation ensuring a legacy after the lifetime of the DVLP.
A female grass snake rescued by Roseanna and John from a oil drum on a local site in Rotherham.
We want to thank all our volunteers for all their hard work and commitment, as well as John’s dedication and vast knowledge. The survey project will continue throughout the peak survey season, in which all records will be collated and passed on to the local records centre and site managers to ensure sites are suitably managed for the future.
Over the next few weeks survey effort will continue, but we are hoping to explore additional sites, continue to monitor the above, and look for other reptiles such as Common Lizard and Slow Worm.
If you have any local records or sightings, or want to know more about the project please contact the DVLP at DVLP@barnsley.gov.uk.