Thursday, 7 April 2011

Are there still any Grass Snakes in the Fylde?

With the weather warming up and spring definitely on its way our Grass Snakes, if we still have any on the Fylde, will be coming out of hibernation.
A report reached FARG today of a Grass Snake being seen ‘a couple of summers ago’ near Fleetwood. This sighting, along with other recent-ish reports from the Blackpool area, suggests there may be very small populations hanging on along the Fylde coast in isolated pockets.
The National Biodiversity Network map only alludes to old records, from before 1956, in the Over Wyre area but no specific locations are given; Winmarleigh Moss might be worthy of investigation.
However, several people remember them being in the area that is now Heron’s Reach golf course on the eastern fringe of Blackpool from the 1960s perhaps into the early 70s too. The habitat now, although quite different to what was present before the golf course was built, looks quite good for them with a variety of sized ponds and lakes with a good population of small fish and plenty of amphibians. Are there any left in that area?
Female Grass Snakes lay 20 - 40 leathery matt-white eggs in June and July often in compost and manure heaps as the warmth acts as a natural incubator. The eggs measure 23-30mm long (about an inch). Pencil-thin hatchlings emerge in late summer and autumn. We ask gardeners with compost heaps, particularly those gardens with water features in them or nearby, to be on the look out for us.
Grass Snakes can be up to three feet long although most are much smaller than this. Look for the distinctive contrasting yellow and black collar just behind the head (the yellow maybe missing in older females but the black is always present). The rest of the animal’s upper-parts are a dark olive green, underneath they are paler with irregular narrow black stripes.
They are completely harmless to people and play dead or emit a horrible smell rather than biting.

Grass Snakes were once far more common than they are today and in 2007 they were included on the updated UK Biodiversity Action Plan as a species in need of conservation and greater protection.

FARG would welcome any information about Grass Snakes in the Fylde from the last 30 years.
Records of other reptiles, namely Slow Worms and Common Lizards from 1970 onwards would also be welcomed. So ask your older friends and neighbours if they have any recollections of reptiles in the Fylde and let us know.

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