A good way of surveying for reptiles is to put down refugia (tins, mats, felts etc) in areas you suspect may have populations. This works especially well for Slow Worms Anguis fragilis and Grass Snakes Natrixnatrix. Last night straight after work, I went to put a few bits down in a graveyard where I suspect there may be slow worms. I then went to check some others I put down over the winter on an area of heath/grassland. Under the second last piece of roofing felt I turned there was a Grass Snake curled up, I photographed this, but when I put it back under the felt, a gravid female Viviparous LizardZootoca vivipara had appeared under the same piece of felt. I put this back under a different piece of felt, as the Grass Snake was definately big enough to eat it! Coming straight from work I only took my compact camera, so pics aren't as sharp as usual.
Tonight after work I went to one of my favourite places in South Yorkshire, it is a lovely spot within the Peak National Park. It was here aged about 11 I caught my first Common LizardLacerta vivipara as they were called then (now named ViviparousLizardZootoca vivipara). My best spot has changed over the years, there are more trees mainly birch and oak but a large area of conifers has recently been cleared (looks like a bombs hit it) allowing in more sunlight. Tonight I heard a few scurrying sounds which were probably lizards before spotting a large gravid female sat on top of a bracken covered wall. I think this was the largest individual (length wise) I have ever seen. She allowed a few shots before making a retreat, after looking for more lizards for 30 minutes (in which time the sun went in) I made my way back out came the sun and she was out again. As the name suggests, Viviparous lizards give birth to live young, when gravid they bask a lot to speed up the gestation period, this gives the youngsters as much time as possible to feed up before they go into hibernation.
Whilst in Corfu I met Botanist David Shimwell, talking about all things plants and animals he promised to put me in touch with his brother Chris who lives in the Peak District. Chris is lucky to have Slow WormsAnguisfragilis in his garden. His garden is south facing and Chris being a fan of nature has left the bottom portion of his garden to grow wild benefiting a range of wildlife. We found a total of 3 slow worms in Chris's garden, 2 males and one which bolted down a hole, in his neighbours garden we found another 4, 2 adult females and 2 juveniles. There was also a juvenile Smooth NewtLissotriton vulgaris. I'm not 100% sure on the ID of this newt, initially I thought its dorsal pattern looked more like a Palmate NewtLissotriton helviticus, however this species has a patchy distribution in the White Peak, prefering the more acidic waters of the Dark Peak. To confirm the species I looked at the underside, smooth newts should have spots on belly and chin, whereas the chin of palmates is pinkish and unspotted, this one just to be awkward didn't have spots on belly or chin. Moving on up the road we got to an area where a few sheets of tin have blown off an old farm building, here we found another 7 slow worms including a large female which looked gravid, there were also 2 Common ToadsBufo bufo. Thanks to Chris and his wife for a very productive morning.
I had a quick look today at one of my favorite sites for Viviparous Lizards Zootoca vivipara, this also happens to be a good site for Adders Vipera berus. However I knew my chances of seeing the latter was pretty much zero, as in June and July they vanish having fed well in the spring and the ambient temperature being high enough to avoid the need to bask. On the other hand the lizards are visable year round especially gravid females, but today nothing, it was a little windy and sometimes after a few nice days nice weather they lie low, and I guess that is what they were doing today. There were a few birds in evidence on the moor, Whinchat, Stonechat and on the sandy path there were a few Green Tiger Beetles Cicindelancampestris. These carnivorous beetles have excellent vision and are the UK fastest running beetles covering 60cm in a second in pursuit of prey. They're also a bit of a pain to photograph running away or more often flying a few yards down the path, anyway after a liitle effort I got a few decent photos.