The Serpents of Embercombe

Laura FairsTuesday, August 3, 2021

This summer, as part of our rewilding work, we have been setting up as many different surveys and monitoring as possible. This is to gain a better understanding of what we live alongside here at Embercombe. We have had lots of wonderful volunteers offering their time to help with this valuable work.

Last week saw the first full check of our reptile transect by our newly trained reptile surveyors! In ecological monitoring, a transect is a route that crosses a habitat (or parts of a habitat). We follow the transect and record data along the way of species we find. For the reptile transect we have laid out sheets of metal (called ‘refugia’ or ‘tins’) which we lift up and look under to record what we find. This method is commonly used because the metal sheets provide a solar-heated refuge for reptiles to warm up early in the day before they head off and hunt for their prey. They provide a focal point for looking for, and finding, reptiles on our land.

The weather wasn’t perfect last week, but with limited availability the volunteers came in anyway with low expectation of finding anything…. They returned with huge grins on their faces and a fantastic selection of sightings. Four slow worms, two grass snakes and a toadlet. To top it off our butterfly transect volunteer peeked under a tin later in the day and found two common lizards!

Our land is rich and abundant for these elusive, yet stunning animals. The long grass, the tussocky flowers, the undisturbed areas is what they so love; full of their prey, plenty of cover to move around in unseen. In so many other places plants are tidied away, cut back and the land is controlled meaning that that these creatures can no longer live alongside us humans due to the lack of suitable habitat. But here at Embercombe we gift back to them the space and resources they need to thrive. Over the weeks ahead we will continue to check the refugia and record what we find.


Photos courtesy of one of our volunteers! Thank you.