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This is not a world of reality TV, fashion, big-screen sport and daily newspapers, but one covered in seas, mountains, forests, ferns, beetles, frogs and birds - get out there and look at it. The good thing about living in a country with a depauperate herpetofauna is that you can go out on a day and see nearly everything. On Sunday I and other people from the Southampton Natural History Society went into the field with members of the Herpetological Conservation Trust to look at reptiles at Town Common, Christchurch (Hampshire)...

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Alas, we did not see Smooth snakes Coronella austriaca or Sand lizards Lacerta agilis as planned, but as you can see from the composite above, we saw most other species: Grass snake Natrix natrix (juvenile on far left), Adder Vipera berus (recently sloughed grey male and brown female at top right), and Slow-worm Anguis fragilis (bottom right). We then moved on to the famous Boscombe Cliffs locality in Bournemouth where alien Western green lizards L. bilineata and Wall lizards Podarcis muralis live alongside native Viviparous lizards Zootoca vivipara (juvenile P. muralis at middle bottom). Saw all three species. And we found (and I retained) an adder slough, though as of yesterday it didn't smell very nice.

Ok... am going to go quiet now, see some of you next week...

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It's funny. "Herping" and "England" are two words that just don't strike me as going well together! But you sound like you had a good haul. How easy is it to find adders over there? Were you lucky to find those two?


I wonderd if your were going to blog about this (Richard mentioned your recent herping last night). Forgive if im wrong but isnt the middle bottom pic a female/juv wall lizard?

Or is it Ive just forgotten what things look like when its sunny!

Hi Neil. You're right, that's a Podarcis, me silly. Are you gonna show your face at the conference next week?

Stewart: thanks for comments. Adders are easy to find if you look in the right places; namely, sunny heathland, moorland etc (they are widespread across England, Wales and Scotland). They also occur in open woodland and coastal places. The individuals photographed above were hiding under a specially placed tin sheet, hence the close range. However, you can simply chance upon them at close range and I've done this several times while out walking. Once I touched one as it moved slowly away into cover: not to be advised (as they're venomous of course), but she was very sluggish and slow. By the way - they are tiny, averaging 50-55 cm (though the record is 90 cm).

Just for contrast, the herpetofauna is far from depauperate where I'm living in the tropical semi-desert of northern Australia. It's getting cooler now and I haven't had a snake call-out for a few weeks: mostly it's western brown snakes (Pseudonaja nuchalis), but in Mount Isa I've also rescued people from three python species, red death-adders, two whipsnakes, a bandy-bandy, and a ridge-tailed monitor (to be fair, it was hiding behind a bathroom cabinet and almost all they could see of it was the forked tongue flicking out). Despite the ravages of the cane toad which has been here over 20 years, there's a conspicuous agamid, four more or less cryptic skink species, and a typhlopid in my back yard (my seven-year-old daughter found one under a rock the other day, very exciting for her). That's not to mention what I find on the roads at night. It would take a very long time to see all the local reptile species.

By John Scanlon, FCD (not verified) on 01 May 2008 #permalink

Thanks for the info, Darren. I unfortunately left England (to move to Australia) before I developed an interest in (obsession with?) reptiles. I don't recall ever seeing a reptile in the wild while I was over there.


hi darren I was planning to show up, but as ever money issues (and the fact I was away on work experience) when the tickets were availible meant I didnt get any. And with richard, mark and co not coming and you and dave busy organising the event Ill be left on my own. There is also the minor matter of my MSc project which Im working on! I have horrible timing!

Saying that I might be able to sneak off and come and say hi at some point