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Reptiles & Amphibians

The rough tussocky grassland and open water habitats found in the Bishop’s Meadow provide excellent habitat to support populations of common reptile and amphibian species. Log piles have been left around the site to provide hibernacula and refugees for toads.

Casual records of grass snake Natrix natrix, slow-worm Anguis fragilis, common frog Rana temporaria, toad Bufo bufo and smooth newt Lissotriton vulgaris have been recorded across the site. Grass snakes, toads and slow-worms are all UK BAP Priority Species and further investigation of herptile species on the meadows is currently being carried out in partnership with the Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group (SARG).SARG

Thus far four slow-worms have been identified under the artificial refugia including juvenile slow-worms confirming breeding at the site.

Grass Snake:

grass snakeThe Grass snake is Britain’s largest native terrestrial reptile, and probably its most common species of snake. The Grass snake can grow to over a metre long, and is strongly associated with water habitats, such as ponds and ditches.

It is completely harmless to man, and almost never bites, even when caught. As with all native reptiles, it is illegal to harm or kill them.

The Grass Snake is most easily identifiable by the interlinked black and yellow collar which usually forms a band or ring immediately behind the snakes head. The upper body is normally olive green or olive brown with black vertical bars along the flanks. On the underside, the ventral scales are buff, cream or white and have an equally individual chequered pattern in black.

Slow Worm:

Despite its name, the slow worm is neither slow nor a worm. It is a legless lizard, of between 30-50cm in length. Whilst superficially looking like a snake, 3 main differences are that the slow worm does not have a distinctive head, it has visible eyelids, and it will readily shed its tail if threatened.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Slow worms spend the majority of time in deep vegetation or underground in humid, overgrown areas of rough grassland, scrub, and urban areas such as gardens and allotments. There is concern that slow worm numbers may be in decline, due to destruction of their habitat.

Although widespread across Britain, the slow worm is most commonly reported in the Southern counties and they have been recorded to live for up to 30 years in wild.

The part of their scientific name ‘fragilis‘ (fragile) comes from the tendency of this species to shed its own tail, when threatened by predators, or if handled too roughly so if you see one please do not touch it!

Smooth Newt:

smooth newtSmooth newts can be recognised by their smooth skin and spots on the throat. The dorsal surface colouration variable from light brown to dark brown/black.  The Smooth newt is the most widespread of our three native newts, occurring throughout Britain, but probably declining in rural areas due to habitat deterioration, but this may be partially balanced by their ability to colonise garden ponds.

Both sexes of Smooth newt grow to between 7 and 11cm, the male being slightly larger than the female. Both male and female have an orange belly which is covered in black spots. When on land the skin becomes a velvety texture and the male’s crest disappears.

Favoured habitat are ponds (without fish) and ditches with a diversity of aquatic vegetation like the Tudor ditch in the Bishop’s Meadow.

Common Toad:

common toadThe main unique ID feature is the toad’s skin, which is dry and warty unlike that of a frog which is smooth and usually moist. They can vary in colour from dark brown to brick red and the male common toads are generally smaller than females.

Common toads can be found in hedgerows, scrub, some gardens and rough grassland (particularly wet meadows). In Britain it is widespread, however, populations have declined and it is now listed as a Priority Species of Conservation Concern.

Common Frog:

frogThe Common frog has smooth, wet skin, long legs and large prominent eyes. It can be found in damp habitats, like wet meadows and gardens, ponds.

Although widespread across Great Britain, the Common frog is thought to be in decline.

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