REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS
Juvenile grass snake
Grass Snakes occur in the damper western parts of the parish where they feed on frogs and so can often be found near ponds. We get them regularly in our garden, both as youngsters and fully grown adults. Harmless but they can give a small bite and can release an impressively bad smelling secretion if you try and catch one.
Slow worms are common in the parish, and we regularly find them warming themselves under our wildlife refugia tins when the sun comes out. They look like snakes typically about 25-30cm long but can grow to 45-50cm. Slow worms are a species of legless lizard and are far from slow and give birth to up to ten live juveniles.
Common frogs in amplexus. Male (above) with pale chin, and female with reddish brown chin.
Twenty years ago, we would get perhaps 50 or more male frogs in our garden pond waiting for the females to arrive. One day a heron fished them all out and grass snakes are frog predators and so numbers reduced almost to zero. Luckily some have returned this year (2023) and we have spawn in the pond again. We do see frogspawn in various wet field drains, including the drain at the back of Stroudfields and on New Buildings Farm and, this year, in the pond to the front of the Seven Stars public house.
Adult common toad
Common toads seem less common than frogs and spend less time in ponds, but we do find them in the garden from time to time often under logs or other dark damp places and as tiny reddish youngsters under our wildlife tins. But where they breed we do not know as they do not appear to use our pond. Generally, they are thought to use deeper rather than shallow water and the absence of deeper waters means that toad numbers have declined across the southern UK. We do however find adult toads wandering around the garden on warm wet nights.
When we first constructed our pond, perhaps 25 years ago we had smooth newts, and we could watch the males protecting eggs in their nest on a gravelly subsurface flower pot. These newts can grow up to 10cm long. We have not seen one now for many years, but they are probably still around.
Male (lower) and female palmate newts
We get many palmate newts in our garden pond, and I have counted up to 20 individuals in the spring, the males sidling up to the females and wafting encouraging pheromones towards them with their tails. Palmates are probably common across the parish. Males have a fine filament at the end of their tails and in the spring mating season they develop distinctive black webbing on their hind feet. They are generally smaller than smooth newts but can grow to 10cm long.
GREAT CRESTED NEWT
I have never seen a great crested newt in the parish, but I have been told that they occur in a few places. They are highly protected under British and European law which makes it an offence to kill, injure, capture, or disturb them; damage or destroy their habitat; and to possess, sell or trade without a government licence. They look like mini-dinosaurs and can grow up to 17cm long.