The Trust needs information on the distribution and numbers of reptile species on
the Ashridge Estate to protect them effectively.
Earlier this year seven volunteers answered Emily Smith’s call to take part in a
Reptile Survey – Marion Adams, Tim Edwin, Barbara Hayman, David Humphreys,
Lorene Preston, Frances Read and Wendy Roscoe.
The team visit Prince’s Riding and Northchurch Common regularly to examine reptile
tins, log piles, fallen trees, etc. where reptiles may be found. Frances Read has
taken particular responsibility for Hudnall Common.
Reptiles are ectothermic. This means they require an external ‘boost’ to their body
temperature to become fully active. This can involve ‘basking’ on a heat gathering
surface in the sunshine (in the open or amongst some vegetation) or under objects
[refugia] that absorb heat.
Our refugia are Reptile Tins, which are rectangles of corrugated iron, tethered to a
marker post, which reptiles find an attractive spot to warm up. The tins attract the
sun’s heat more quickly than the surrounding ground and they need to be placed in a
sunny but hidden-away spot. Approximately 30 tins were placed before the growth of
the bracken and a GPS is needed to find some of them!
The volunteers approach quietly then gently lift the reptile tin to avoid disturbing any
wildlife taking shelter beneath. So far the team have observed and recorded grass
snakes and common lizards at various locations as well as common frogs and toads,
small mammals and insects. Sadly no slow worms have been seen yet. Written
reports and photographs are sent to Emily to add to her records.
Emily would welcome reports and photos of reptile sightings at other locations
around the Estate.
Thanks to David Humphreys for this contribution.