Parc Slip Nature Reserve, Tondu
Last weekend, I attended an interesting course on amphibian and reptile ecology and conservation. The first day we spent learning how to identify and differentiate between the various species and between genders of the same animal. Apparently there are no, or very few, common newts in South Wales, where I live, which saves a lot of trouble when it comes to identifying a small newt in my pond as it must be a Lissotriton helveticus, the palmate newt. Did you know that frogs prefer to spawn in shallow, temporary ponds whilst toads like deeper, permanent ponds? I didn’t. I’ll never be able to confuse a grass snake with an adder if I come across these species and I’ll know not to pick up a frog or toad with dry hands as it damages them. If I see a snake basking in the sun, I won’t disturb it because it’s either warming itself or digesting a recent meal. I could go on…. 🙂
After the morning’s lecture, we went for a walk around the conservation area and looked under and near artificial refuges (sheets of black corrugated bitumen roofing on top of which reptiles can bask and under which they can shelter). In the space of a couple of hours, we saw grass snakes, slow worms, a lizard and an adder plus a great crested newt. The grass snakes were particularly interesting as we had a graphic, and rather smelly, example of their first defence mechanism i.e. the snake defecates on its aggressor, and the last ditch ‘playing dead’ behaviour. Here are some photos; I couldn’t ‘shoot’ the adder for fear of disturbing it unnecessarily.