A group often overlooked in projects of this kind is the reptiles. Not the easiest to survey and not particularly abundant, they are often ignored in preference for the more glamorous birds and mammals. However, the Cromar Farming With Nature project remit is to cover as broad a range of wildlife as possible, so we have been putting some effort into identifying suitable areas to start searching for our local snakes and lizards.
There are only three species of reptile native to Scotland; the Adder, Common Lizard and Slow Worm, and we might expect to find them all in and around our study areas, but how do we find them? Reptiles are cold-blooded, meaning they cannot control their body temperature internally and rely on external heat sources to warm up. This means they can often be seen basking in the sunshine in warm, sheltered spots. They also frequently shelter underneath objects such as large stones and logs, and this habit can be exploited to our advantage by providing artificial objects for them to use which can then be checked on a regular basis.
To this end we have been laying out sections of roofing felt and corrugated iron, which have both been found to attract reptiles elsewhere. These can be checked at regular intervals into the future so we can track any changes in abundance and distribution. All of these objects are now laid out and are in the process of being marked (see photo) so that everyone knows what they are, and together with nearby basking sites will form the basis of our surveys.
Our work has only just begun but already we have seen a number of slow worms, like the female pictured here.
If anyone in The Howe sees any reptiles on their travels we’d love to hear from them. Tell us what you saw and where, and we’ll add the information to our database – every little helps!