Friday, 13 May 2011
Grass Snake, Ken Hill Wood, Snettisham, Norfolk
As a birder you learn to read the countryside through a birds eyes, where are the good places to feed, cover from a predator, somewhere to sing from and as you develop your bird eyes, you start to see more and more birds until the process can seem uncanny and instinctive to non birders.
If you want to look at other taxa you have to develop your skills and train your senses to find them. Now we've only got three native snake species in the UK one of which the Smooth Snake is very rare and range restricted, another the Adder is in decline and I've not found locally and the third and commonest is the Grass Snake. This relative paucity of species and low population levels, along with the beasts habit of hibernating for half the year means that perhaps unsurprisingly, I rather disappointingly don't have 'snake eyes.' I do though have a chance to try and develop them.
Ken Hill is a lovely wood that covers the slopes of a hill overlooking The Wash on the edge of the West Norfolk village of Snettisham. It is popular with locals as a place to walk their dogs and is an OK birding site where each January I reckon to add Marsh Tit to my year list. It also would appear to have an excellent population of Grass Snakes and I have taken advantage of several days work in the village to spend my lunch breaks looking for these snakes.
At the moment my technique is to walk slowly along the woodland paths listening for the distinctive sound of a snake sliding through the leaf litter. This can be an effective way of finding snakes but has the disadvantage that they have normally already spotted you and are slithering away or are on a mission anyway and moving fast across the forest floor.
So my next challenge is to develop the eyes to see snakes before they move, to see and understand the sorts of places that a snake would find attarctive to sun bathe, rest and wait for prey and then hopefuly I will spot them when they are lying still by the side of the path and be able to creep up on them and look into their snake eyes and take their photo.
Today was a little cloudy and cooler than of late and I found one Grass Snake in the 40 minutes I spent in the woods. This image is the only vaguely acceptable one I got and not quite sharp. So I'll have to try again.