A regular column from Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.
The natural world is waking from its winter slumber. Buds are bursting, the first butterflies are on the wing, and large queen bumblebees are out and about in search of nectar, writes Rachel Shaw.
On those sunny days, in a sheltered suntrap, reptiles might also be seen basking in the heat. At the Wildlife Trust, our first reported sighting of an adder was from north Lincolnshire on February 25. Adders are our only venomous snake but they are not aggressive and most likely to disappear into the undergrowth if they hear a person approaching. They are also very rare in Lincolnshire and restricted to a few heathland sites and some wooded areas on sandy, acidic soils.
The most likely snake to be spotted in the south of the county is the non-venomous grass snake. The name is unfortunate as they are frequently spotted not amongst the grass but in ponds where they are hunting for frogs, fish and invertebrates. This is the snake people are most likely to see in their gardens; in ponds or even hibernating in the warmth of the compost heap. Grass snakes are olive green with black bars down the sides and some black spots on top. The neck has a yellow or white mark, next to a black mark.
The other animals that might be spotted in ponds at this time of year, particularly if you don’t have fish, are our native amphibians: frogs, toads and newts. Although we always think of these animals in association with water, they actually spend a large part of the year amongst log piles or under rocks.
In Lincolnshire there are six species of amphibian: common frog, common toad, natterjack toad, smooth newt, great crested newt and palmate newt; and four species of reptile: adder, grass snake, common lizard and slow-worm.
Like so much of our wildlife, amphibians and reptiles declined throughout the 20th century and may be continuing to decline now. But without more detailed information about where they are seen, it is difficult to know exactly how they are faring in the county.
Individually, seeing a toad in your garden may not seem that important but when lots of sightings are collated we can begin to see how they are distributed in Lincolnshire. Submitting your sightings of amphibians and reptiles will increase understanding of the existing populations.
A simple online form can be filled in whenever frogs, toads, newts, snakes or lizards are spotted – lincstrust.org.uk/reptile-survey