Snakes in the grass

Evidence of Natrix natrix breeding at Thames Road Wetland

Grass Snakes, Britain’s largest native snake species, are only occasionally seen at Thames Road Wetland, and are difficult to get photographs of. There is a particular, and somewhat surprising spot, where two different individuals have been seen a couple of times in recent months. Whilst giving a guided tour to a volunteer on August 18th, we took a chance that one would be there again, despite it being cool and overcast, and were rewarded with two youngsters. This provides good evidence of on-site breeding. Indeed cut/pulled vegetation is deliberately piled up to crate egg-laying sites for these animals. Fortunately I got the cover they were under back down quickly enough that they stayed put whilst my companion Rebecca Morgan readied her camera. She was then able to grab the photos reproduced below before they slid off into the surrounding undergrowth.

Two young Grass Snakes at Thames Road Wetland

Two young Grass Snakes found under sheltering material at Thames Road Wetland.

A closer view. This juvenile individual was a bit over 30cm/a foot long. Females can exceed 1.3 metres.

A closer view. This juvenile individual was a bit over 30cm/a foot long. Females can exceed 1.3 metres. Note the dark head, yellow collar and obvious scales, all distinguishing features compared with the Slow Worm, which is a legless lizard.

Grass Snakes are harmless and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence to kill, harm or injure them, sell or trade them in any way. They are thought to be in decline due to habitat loss and, like the rest of the UK’s reptile species, they are the subject of Biodiversity Action Plans.

Chris Rose

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3 Responses to Snakes in the grass

  1. Stephen West says:

    I saw one just over a week ago on the banks of the river Dart in Dartford by the Acacia Hall !

  2. Richard says:

    Hi Chris I live the Dartford side of Stanham farm and have been observing the healthy population of Grass Snakes or many years,creating favorable habitats for them in and around the allotment sites in the surrounding area.We have witnessed mating and hunting by these fascinating creatures and have recorded with video and stills,one female must have measured nearly a metre in length

    • Chris Rose says:

      Hi Richard, Very interesting. We’d be happy to ‘publish’ some footage/stills on this website. Moreover I’d be interested in coming down and having a look at the habitat work you’ve done, especially on allotment sites – one of my many projects has been surveying all the Bexley allotment sites for reptiles and amphibians. They are very good on this count. I’m at chrisrose@gn.apc.org

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