Between the wind and rain the hail and snow there are days of calm, with blue skies and warmth from the young February sun. These are the days to take advantage of. They may be fleeting, few and far between or even only half a day long as cloud from the West rolls in over the Pennines. But do not lose hope for as the days go by they become longer, warmer and the good ones more frequent.
The early riser is often rewarded with sightings of lazing reptiles among bracken strewn banks.
The first surveys planned for the Revealing Reptiles Project volunteers didn’t go ahead due to cloud, wind, rain, sleet, low temperatures and what is commonly referred to as sods law. However this second week has proved a little more clement and allowed us to venture out into the beauty that County Durham hides so well in it’s deep dales and wide rolling moors.
Despite feeling like I was having a return bout of malaria including the aching joints, sweating, shivering, coughing and mild delirium, I still got out and about to help train some willing volunteers. Heaven help them, as I didn’t think I was making any sense what so ever. Mixing Beecham’s flu Plus and NightNurse in the blender as a breakfast smoothie probably wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had. The kipper certainly wasn’t a help.
The popular picnic sites and woodland walks, while not to be dismissed, are best left alone during busy times like school holidays and weekends. The last thing you want is an audience while you are out herping. You can never be certain of the intent of some individuals, so polite caution and keeping out of view are better options.
The cold spring winds whipping across the hill tops can be avoided when you duck down into a narrow valley or round a hill so the gale passes overhead rather than through your head. These places can offer shelter for observer as well as the observed. A strong wind can put reptiles at a distinct disadvantage as constantly moving vegetation and shadow make them alert and nervous. This does not help the keen eyed volunteer spotter either.
A decent spell of morning warmth can coax reptiles from their slumber and they emerge to sit and soak up the sun for hours at a time. Even passing clouds bringing rain and sleet can be ignored for some time until things become unbearable. It never ceases to surprise me what conditions adders ,in particular, will put up with.
So although the warmer the better, it might still be worth a look about on an overcast day or even continue to search during a shower that passes over during an otherwise pleasant morning.
I’m a glass is always full chap. It might not be full of liquid but the remaining space will still be full of air. On that positive note, I shall bid you all farewell and wish you
John R Grundy
Revealing Reptiles Project Officer
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