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An Essex Wildlife Garden Update!

Printed From: Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK
Category: General
Forum Name: Wildlife Gardening
Forum Description: For discussion about wildlife (especially amphibian and reptile) gardening
URL: http://www.herpetofauna.co.uk/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=5169
Printed Date: 23 Nov 2017 at 5:35am
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 11.06 - http://www.webwizforums.com


Topic: An Essex Wildlife Garden Update!
Posted By: GemmaJF
Subject: An Essex Wildlife Garden Update!
Date Posted: 10 Aug 2017 at 6:08pm
I think the last I posted of the wildlife garden was the construction of the clay pond. It looked a bit like a building site so an update now nature is back in charge Smile

The pond renovation was documented here:

http://www.herpetofauna.co.uk/forum/hand-building-a-clay-pond_topic3889_page1.html" rel="nofollow - http://www.herpetofauna.co.uk/forum/hand-building-a-clay-pond_topic3889_page1.html

The wildlife garden as it is today:


Clay pond nicely topped up after heavy rain. The only introduced plants that were successful were the yellow flag iris and pond lily. Just as well they are my two favourites. Both are contained in planters so they do not take over completely. As you can see we have plenty of ivy leaved and ordinary duckweed, not much we can do being next to an arable field regarding nutrients getting in there but it does not seem to bother the smooth newts and frogs:



Purple Loosestrife is now mostly gone to seed, each year it self seeds and gets a little more established and attracts plenty of bees. New Tit box was put up last autumn and attracted interest straight away, two successful broods this year:




Hawthorn hedge now I think in its third year. Still keeping it fairly formal but the plan is to let it go a bit wilder on our side when it matures to provide berries for the birds:





This was a recent addition a pile of blackthorn logs. We had some blackthorn that nobody took responsibility for at the front of the property. It had got ridiculously leggy and top heavy so was getting blown over in the wind. After much negotiation with the village council (involving debating that a plant that is actually classed a shrub is not subject to the blanket TPOs locally)  it was agreed I could rejuvenate the blackthorn back to a formal hedge (with benefits for wildlife Wink). This provided me with new mini logs!




The adjacent bug hotel has largely been ignored by bugs. I have some hope that as the hedge establishes it might get used more. One of those, oh well I gave it a go but it was not really anywhere near as successful at attracting bugs as this.. ...good old fashioned compost heap (read as grass snake egg incubator/slow worm habit):





Now looking quite degraded, one of the five willow log piles, I want to add fresh logs in the next year or so. This is the absolute vision of what I think of when I think 'reptile habitat':




And the proof it really is reptile habitat, one of this years new-born lizards on Onduline, just the other side of the log pile shown above:



Was it worth the toil and effort of the clay pond that took several years to actually do? Of course! Big smile



Replies:
Posted By: Tom Omlette
Date Posted: 10 Aug 2017 at 6:25pm
looks fantastic gemma, great effort!!! Clap

tom



Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 10 Aug 2017 at 6:50pm
Thanks Tim!

One more for today, just popped out to cover the compost heap and spotted this lot catching the last rays of sun that reach the garden in the evening. 3 generations, 2 adults, a subby and couple of juveniles Smile




Posted By: Iowarth
Date Posted: 10 Aug 2017 at 7:03pm
Wonderful job Gemma - and definitely well worth while!
Chris


-------------
Chris Davis, Site Administrator

Co-ordinator, Sand Lizard Captive Breeding Programme (RETIRED)


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 10 Aug 2017 at 7:37pm
I absolutely love the look of that pond, I hope you will take it as a complement when i say it doesn't look cultivated at all, I guess it must take a surprising amount of work to ensure that the garden doesn't go completely wild, it must have a tendency to sprout everywhere when the weather conditions are right!


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 11 Aug 2017 at 11:57am
Thanks Chris.

Thanks chubsta, the non-cultivated look is certainly a compliment Smile

Management isn't so bad. I keep a path open to the compost heap which means mowing it once a week. The rest is just left to do its thing all summer.

In October I drop most of the vegetation, leaving some of the seed heads for bugs, but most comes down and goes on the compost. This opens the whole lot up so the lizards benefit from more light reaching the ground towards the end of the season and also the following spring. It makes it a lot tidier over the winter months too, the dead vegetation if left would look a bit grim.

Pond weed is thinned in the Autumn

The only other management is a Crack willow we have growing in there. Every couple of years I coppice it to provide material to top off the log piles. So it is mostly self sustaining, just with the addition of grass clippings from the rest of the garden to the compost heap and some hedge trimmings which I chip and add to the compost too.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 11 Aug 2017 at 12:46pm
Picture of the Crack willow, this is one years growth after coppicing last autumn. Another year and there will be nice straight branches to harvest as brash for the log piles. Been toying for several years with using it to make a small section of dead hedging, never seem to get around to doing it though, maybe next  year!




You can just see the bench we sit on bottom left of the picture, many hours spent totally relaxed and just watching the animals, much better than the telly Smile


Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 12 Aug 2017 at 11:09am

Whoa! That's my kind of garden (though unfortunately not my partner's - we argue!). Well done Gemma.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 12 Aug 2017 at 12:46pm
Fortunately for me  Mervyn is like minded and he spends more time sat up there than I do! I get reports each day on how many lizards, frogs, dragonflies and new lily flowers he has spotted. The only thing he is not keen on is the grass snakes, but I still get a shout if he sees one Wink


Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 12 Aug 2017 at 1:09pm
Great to see your garden Gemma. The pond looks like it's been there for ever, yet I remember its creation. 

-------------
Suz


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 12 Aug 2017 at 1:20pm
Thanks Suz, first year since the pond renovation that the wildlife garden really feels like it is back to its former glory. The world feels right again Smile


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 12 Aug 2017 at 5:12pm
Slow worms under Onduline today. Cloudy but warm so plenty of lizards showing, over a dozen juveniles scampered off the felts when I went to take a look. 

Not seen a grassy for a few days, will try to get a picture of one soon though. I have high hopes we had eggs laid in the compost this year so will be keeping an eye out for little bootlace grassies over the next few weeks.






Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 12 Aug 2017 at 7:19pm
Just a quick post about composting. I've looked into composting several times down the years. The main aim is to come up with a system ideal for grass snakes. I do use the compost for the conventional garden purpose, but if an ideal 'system' could be established that generated just the right conditions for grass snake egg laying at the correct time of year, I would certainly use it. To this end I keep researching composting and one of the best resources I have found is here:
http://compost.css.cornell.edu/science.html" rel="nofollow -
http://compost.css.cornell.edu/science.html" rel="nofollow - http://compost.css.cornell.edu/science.html

There is a mix of very general information with the option of following links to more scientific info if required.

It is one of those things, we all hear of grass snakes using compost, but we get hit and miss results. I've no doubt grass snakes have used the heap in the past, but this year it seems more of a cold heap so 50/50 if it was used or not. I would love to pin down a method of building a heap each year that practically guaranteed the local grass snakes using it. 

The one element of composting I want to avoid is turning during the months the eggs and young are in the heap.

So the plan is over the autumn and spring to come up with a method and hopefully see the results. I thought about avoiding layering and making up small batches of mixes with the right C/N ratio right at the start (to avoid turning). This would mean I do not need to turn the heap and it should produce heat. I might though have to think of an alternative way of aerating such as putting in air tubes. Much to ponder but I will update on this thread as the plan comes together. 

Any thoughts or suggestions are of course more than welcome.




Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 12 Aug 2017 at 8:45pm
Looking at the composting, I have put a graph of a typical heat creating compost heap up against the ideal egg incubating temperature of 27-28 degrees C (Townson 1990)



Interestingly the start of the heat producing composting process, the mesophilic is short lived (few days) and rapidly becomes too hot for the eggs.

The Thermophilic stage can last from a few days to several months and is far too hot to incubate grass snake eggs

It seems the only useful period to grass snakes in the process is the cooling and maturation phase.


Now bearing in mind that any actual compost heap will not follow the model exactly (some areas will likely be cooler and more suitable than others without getting too scientific) it still follows if one could aim to compost to the model above it might guarantee a high success rate for the eggs.

Food for thought.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 13 Aug 2017 at 2:32pm
More pondering. 

From my model I can safely turn the heap in February (too hot for slow worms or snakes to be in there), this is sometimes a good idea if the heap is getting very hot to aerate and prevent excessive heat killing microbes. Then again in May. I thought a good mix up in May might get the aroma going to attract grass snakes.

It is a case really of weighing up what materials are available when, how to get the C/N ratio near to optimal and then monitoring the core temperature to see if I am anywhere near my ideal model.

So plan is to buy a compost temperature probe and throughout 2018 record the core temperature. If it is close to my model, I have a system, just a case then of noting if we have young in the heap in September Smile


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 13 Aug 2017 at 5:33pm
Complicated business this, to think I always assumed a compost heap was just a pile of old leaves and teabags...


Posted By: PondDragon
Date Posted: 13 Aug 2017 at 6:30pm
I just turn the heap in late winter / early spring (around March), put a tarpaulin over it and leave it undisturbed till the following winter. In the meantime I start a fresh heap next to it. Occasionally I've found the shells from a clutch in the fresh heap, but generally the grass snakes seem to breed quite successfully in the covered heap (and bask under the sheet). Never found any evidence of snakes overwintering in the heap, and after hatching I get the impression they disperse pretty quickly.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 13 Aug 2017 at 7:55pm
Chubsta, from my pondering I pretty much agree, composting can be that simple right to being a complicated science. I see though some wildlife managers are encouraged to put in heaps for grass snakes and there is little guidance really regarding what makes a good heap that might get used for egg laying.

PondDragon I think this is going to be close to the actual practice I follow. I have a large heap as pictured, think the plan will be to clear half for a new heap this Autumn. I will want to follow the temperature next year though and see how close it is to my model. I would guess generally it just works, most of us having more material available in the autumn months, so by the next egg laying periods it is very likely the heap is in the cooling/maturing stage. In the past though I have not really given much attention to C/N only adding some greens and browns so I think some years I end up with much better heaps than others. The plan is to get that consistent if possible and compare to see if it really benefits the snakes in the real world.

Just to add having a split compost heap, one side new one side mature has a lot of logic too. I can imagine if the new heap was still rather hot come June/July a nice temperature gradient would exist where it contacts the older adjacent material. So a good model to work with.


Posted By: PondDragon
Date Posted: 13 Aug 2017 at 10:23pm
I don't think my heaps get particularly hot - they generally suffer from being too dry and insufficiently well mixed. They seem to do OK for the snakes though, and produce compost that's usable if not especially high quality.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 14 Aug 2017 at 10:40am
Originally posted by PondDragon PondDragon wrote:

I don't think my heaps get particularly hot - they generally suffer from being too dry and insufficiently well mixed. They seem to do OK for the snakes though, and produce compost that's usable if not especially high quality.

That would be my average heap up to now also. Right now I think it is inverts rather than microbes doing the composting and we have huge numbers of them in the heap. It seems a bit hit and miss though and can take several years to get the compost.

The best grass snake year was when we had a pet rabbit. The bedding mixed with poop fired things up a bit and the heap was definitely more heat orientated and the garden was full of bootlace grassies that autumn.

It's interesting to investigate as a milder version of a 'heat producing' heap might be much better, considering the very high temperatures involved in the model. What I'm really aiming for is an annual cycle that works out each time, both for the snakes and me. Each year I have the material and the hard work is getting it all together and chipping it. It would be good to be a bit more sure I am doing the best I can with it for the snakes.

The only technical bit really is to use the same materials that are always available to me but calculate the amount of fresh horse poop and browns to get the ideal C/N ratio. Get the heat phase over by June/July and things should be good. The inverts can still carry on with one side of the heap and I would guess move into the new side as it cools. So I get my composting done in a season  and hopefully still generate ideal conditions for the snakes.




Posted By: PondDragon
Date Posted: 14 Aug 2017 at 11:02am
My feeling is that with a large heap, it probably doesn't matter if it's still in the hot phase when the snakes want to lay so long as the snakes can access cooler parts where the temperature is more suitable. The larger the heap, the more stable the temperature's going to be.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 14 Aug 2017 at 11:49am
Yes I think this could be it, some mix between generating heat in one part and a cooler section so that somewhere in between the conditions are likely to be ideal. 

I've ordered one of these:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Green-Wash-Ltd-19-2008-Thermometer/dp/B0036DCVB4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502707564&sr=8-1&keywords=compost+thermometer" rel="nofollow -
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Green-Wash-Ltd-19-2008-Thermometer/dp/B0036DCVB4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502707564&sr=8-1&keywords=compost+thermometer" rel="nofollow - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Green-Wash-Ltd-19-2008-Thermometer/dp/B0036DCVB4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502707564&sr=8-1&keywords=compost+thermometer

I thought it would be prudent to measure the current temperature of my invert heap to get a base line idea of the core temperature and how stable it is.

In all, I think I'm moving towards the idea of the double sided heap, one side renewed each year and heat producing, the other left over from the previous season, then it is very likely that somewhere in the heap conditions will be ideal.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 14 Aug 2017 at 3:37pm
So here is Plan A Smile


It might seem like a lot of effort, but from the currently available data the narrow band of ideal temperature that has been established relates to much higher success regarding the percentage of animals that actually hatch. That must be worth a bit of effort to give them a fighting chance. Wink


Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 15 Aug 2017 at 11:11am
This is all very interesting stuff. I have my heaps covered in plastic always, to keep cats off and to keep moisture in to keep the heap active. There is very limited time to remove the compost as slow worms are in there, either hibernating or breeding. If we want to get any out then April is a good month when the slow worms are active. Any that get lifted out we place in another bin.

-------------
Suz


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 15 Aug 2017 at 12:44pm
Thanks  Suz, have been pondering how to still accommodate slow worms within the scheme and particularly when to to remove material with the least disturbance to them.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 15 Aug 2017 at 1:20pm
Just an update on the grassies, one sub-adult yesterday and what looked like one of last years young just now today. Both fleeting sightings in the pond. Despite sitting for an hour with the camera last night, still no pictures!


Posted By: Tom Omlette
Date Posted: 15 Aug 2017 at 7:14pm
go out without your camera gemma...you'll see loads lol! very interested to see the results of your experiments

tim



Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 16 Aug 2017 at 11:54am
That's exactly what always happens of course Tim! Go up to the pond with camera, not so much as a dragonfly appears. Go up there for a coffee with no camera, well you know, it is full of life LOL

Compost temperature gauge arrived today, so I will start getting some core temperatures of the compost as it is now. Will be interesting to see the results.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 16 Aug 2017 at 4:23pm
Ha finally! Changing tactics by going up to the pond for a coffee and pretending I really did not have a camera with me at all:







Posted By: Iowarth
Date Posted: 16 Aug 2017 at 5:23pm
Just goes to prove ..... they know you know!! Wink


-------------
Chris Davis, Site Administrator

Co-ordinator, Sand Lizard Captive Breeding Programme (RETIRED)


Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 17 Aug 2017 at 7:31am
Pond Looks well mature should attract a few nats Keith

-------------
   LOCAL ICYNICAL CELTIC ECO WARRIOR AND FAILED DRUID


Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 17 Aug 2017 at 10:34am
Lucky you Gemma! Well it's more than luck to attract them I know, but what a great feeling after putting in the pond.

-------------
Suz


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 17 Aug 2017 at 1:06pm
I certainly feel lucky Suz Smile Fortunately grass snakes are still relatively common locally, so just add water as I heard you say before, nature does the rest.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 17 Aug 2017 at 4:32pm
Interesting results from the compost heap! 

I checked the thermometer for accuracy (good across the dial to +/- 1 degree  and then recorded a shade temperature of 25 degrees C

I then took the readings in the full sun just now, I will try and get up early in the mornings and take future readings of the heap consistently before the sun gets on the heap, just to rule out any possible external heating and make sure I am seeing the lowest daily temperature.

Anyway some really interesting results that surprised me just a little. I measured at 3 positions as illustrated in my plan and here are the results:

Position 1: 37 C
Position 2: 31 C
Position 3: 28 C

So an early indication that my current invert heap already has a very good temperature gradient and includes an area in the range of the established optimum temperature.

Going to be really interesting to collect further readings over the next few weeks and see if this continues into September.

High reading:



Low reading



At £20 including delivery from Amazon, I think the gauges are great value and really interesting to start investigating the inner goings on of my compost heap!

Just to add that I was wondering if the readings might be skewed by an active and recently added top layer that is currently microbial and obviously warm to the touch. Investigation of the thermometer though confirms the reading is the temperature at the end of the 40 cm spike attached to it. So the recorded values are an accurate record of temperature deep at the core of the heap.

Who thought composting could be as interesting as nuclear physics LOL



Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 18 Aug 2017 at 12:32pm
Day 2 of the experiment. An average drop of a couple of degrees across the heap, the hottest end down a full 3 degrees, the middle fairly stable with a 1 degree drop and cool end down 2 degrees. Shade temperature was 1 degree lower at the time I collected the data, but breezy and much cooler here today. 

Early days but it got me to thinking about cool wet summers. Anecdotally I remember discussions on cool wet summers being very poor in terms of grass snake hatching rates. There is an obvious logic to it, but I wonder just how much the compost temperatures will actually reflect ambient temperatures in an invert driven 'cold' heap? Which gets me back on the idea of a heap at least partially made up of a microbial 'hot' material which may counter daily and seasonal fluctuations in the poorest years.

It would be great if anyone else is able to collect data from their heaps also. More data collected over several years would be of great interest to me. I'm not too concerned if grass snakes use the heaps or not, be interested to compare data from heaps that are not regularly used for egg laying with those that are. If anyone wants to I can put together an Excel sheet to enter the data into.



Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 19 Aug 2017 at 2:22pm
Day 3 of the experiment.

Overcast and noticeably cooler than the previous two days. Shade temperature 22 C

Noticing a strong correlation between a drop in ambient shade temperature and drop in temperature in the heap core.

This surprised me quite a bit as I think it could have been easy to assume the heap core temperatures would be a lot more stable and less affected by ambient temperatures on a daily basis. So perhaps an early indication that an invert 'cool' heap could be struggling in a cold wet summer to maintain the optimum stable temperature range for egg incubation. We will see!




Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 19 Aug 2017 at 5:17pm
How does nature manage?! When you consider garden compost heaps tend to have side enclosures of some sort, that must help to keep the temperature up a bit, what happens to natural heaps that grass snakes lay eggs in? I'm thinking that generally these will not be huge, and thus tend to be cooler as no edges acting as buffers to keep the core warmer. 
We are always told that a compost heap must be as damp as a wrung out sponge to keep active. In the wild a heap can presumably become sodden with rain or very dry if hot and no rain. What materials would act best to build up some warmth? Heaps of dead reed stalks beside water, or going more man-made - piles of municipal grass cuttings, sawdust at a mill (if such exists now?). We are told to layer our garden heaps for best/quickest working, but does that happen much in the wild? Would a heap in full sun be better than in the shade? Or is it best to have some sun, but not all day? 


-------------
Suz


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 19 Aug 2017 at 5:46pm
This is what I am hoping to investigate at some level. I could though see it as a wonderful project for some MSc students to be sent of to investigate compost heaps, manure heaps and natural 'incubators' such as rotting logs and heaps of reeds etc and collect a lot more data. Smile

I was wondering if my corrugated iron is responsible for dissipating and absorbing heat from the sides of the heap. So perhaps not the best design to keep the core temperature stable, though quite traditional.

It seems the 'key' to heat is C/N ratio. This is not quite as simple though of having some browns and greens. Each item, be it grass cuttings, weeds, sawdust has its own C/N ratio, so it takes a bit of maths to come up with the optimum ratio of each item in a 'mix' to generate a lot of heat. I hope to do this and get a good heat producing version next year to compare with this years data of an invert only 'cool' heap. At least initially cool heaps look a bit hit and miss and very much at the mercy of ambient temperatures. Though it is fair to say it does seem to stay a few degrees higher than ambient.

Though I am now also considering shelter from wind, position in terms of sun, construction etc as all factors that would need considering if building an optimum heap for grass snakes.


Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 19 Aug 2017 at 7:09pm
Yes Gemma so many variables to consider. I would join in this experiment but my heaps are small. One has corrugated iron sides and the other is an ex concrete coal bunker apart from that I have four plastic daleks.

-------------
Suz


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 19 Aug 2017 at 8:26pm
Originally posted by Suzi Suzi wrote:

How does nature manage?! 

and isn't that the greatest thing - humans can analyse and perfect systems that we think will help, and all the time nature is just doing its own thing in the background, just like has been happening for hundreds of millions of years...

I have 8 absolutely perfectly positioned and built hedgehog houses in my garden, they offer all the shelter and protection a hog would ever need, but apparently they are only good for use as a toilet and a pile of leaves under a hedge is a much better design.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 19 Aug 2017 at 8:36pm
I have to say chubsta I have wondered if those hedgehog houses might be a bit of con, we have never had them but always have hogs. One of my interests in the optimum 'heap' is changing farming practice. Grass snakes once could rely on an abundance of muck heaps in the countryside, but they are getting less abundant with the changes in farming practice. Much like the way wildlife increasingly relies on our garden ponds instead of dew ponds. I have a feeling the humble compost heap might be the grass snakes best hope of staying abundant locally.


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 19 Aug 2017 at 10:29pm
i know what you mean about the hog houses, but there are also log piles, piles of brush etc, all lovingly created to attract hogs which just poo in them and go somewhere much nicer every morning...

Interesting point about the dung heaps, i guess as more and more chemical fertilisers are used and dairy herds are reduced etc due to milk imports we are seeing a marked reduction in them, and of course that will be great news to the townies who hate the country to smell like the country!


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 20 Aug 2017 at 11:53am
Oh yes our new townies neighbours still talk about the slurry being spread last year and how dreadful it was. I thought it smelt rather wholesome LOL

We are mostly arable locally. 10 years ago most farmers still had at least some livestock, even if it was just a sideline and I have seen that decline to a point where now the majority of herds have gone. Since the recession also a reduction in the number of horses being kept locally. So at least round here there is a steady decrease in potential egg laying sites. Within just a mile circle around the house at least three large dung heaps are now gone.

PS just to add at least the poo shows they visit the habitat! Unless I go out after dark the only signs of hogs in our garden is the little presents they leave on my path to the compost heap. If you get a lot of leaves in the Autumn, we found big piles of these are a real magnet for hibernating hogs, has to be a fairly deep pile though say 3ft minimum. Wink


Posted By: AGILIS
Date Posted: 01 Sep 2017 at 6:32am
nice to see you have plenty of juvs in your reserve seems there is plenty round here to regards Keith

-------------
   LOCAL ICYNICAL CELTIC ECO WARRIOR AND FAILED DRUID


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 01 Sep 2017 at 1:19pm
Originally posted by GemmaJF GemmaJF wrote:

If you get a lot of leaves in the Autumn, we found big piles of these are a real magnet for hibernating hogs, has to be a fairly deep pile though say 3ft minimum. Wink

Last year i had good intentions of going to the woods and collecting a few bags of leaves but didn't get round to it, this year will definitely give it a go and put a couple of big piles in the garden, hopefully one of two will hibernate in them. Hadn't really thought about the depth much but guess that it does need to be pretty big to insulate and be waterproof so will aim for 3ft then.


Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 17 Sep 2017 at 9:57am
Originally posted by GemmaJF GemmaJF wrote:

One of my interests in the optimum 'heap' is changing farming practice. Grass snakes once could rely on an abundance of muck heaps in the countryside, but they are getting less abundant with the changes in farming practice.


Funnily enough, i commented to a landowner last week, how good rural south Wales can be for reptiles, what with it's often much less intensive food production traditions, more frequent unmanaged 'wild' spots on farms and better connectivity to old habitats beyond.
Other than on say, premises contiguous to nature reserves perhaps, observing an adder on farmland in my area would be a noteworthy event, but as i have discovered first hand, not so much in places like Pembrokeshire.

He then related an anecdote that made me smile. A ageing neighbour with a large garden had recently asked for his help in moving the compost/muck heap to a more convenient position nearby. Deciding that the quickest and easiest way would be with his tractor, the farmer duly rolled up later, having first affixed his 'muck grab' to the front.
With the neighbour looking on, he firmly grasped the entire pile in one go, when suddenly the pair of them got an unexpected shock as "8 great big", panicking grass snakes shot out in all directions!    


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 24 Sep 2017 at 12:42pm
First sighting today of a 2017 hatchling grass snake. Made my day to lift the plastic sheet on the compost and see the perfectly formed mini snake looking back at me. Smile


Posted By: Iowarth
Date Posted: 24 Sep 2017 at 5:07pm
Wonderful Gemma - the kind of sight that still, after all these years, makes me go WOW!!
Chris


-------------
Chris Davis, Site Administrator

Co-ordinator, Sand Lizard Captive Breeding Programme (RETIRED)


Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 25 Sep 2017 at 9:33am
Wow Gemma! Brill!

-------------
Suz


Posted By: Tom Omlette
Date Posted: 26 Sep 2017 at 7:29pm
wow that was quick!!! great to hear!

Tom


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 27 Sep 2017 at 4:08pm
Thanks guys, much as Chris has said even after all the years, these things still give me a big WOW. It's been a bit of a battle to get the wildlife garden back where it was 10 years ago, but now I really feel all is right again.

Been up to the compost a couple of times since and not seen more, though I do not want disturb it too much while hatchlings are in there. 

Other news is returning male frogs. Several returned to the pond in past few days. They have been calling loudly in the day, they must think it is spring already!



Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 27 Sep 2017 at 9:04pm
September and even August I seem to get frogs tuning up in the garden. Always from cover - never seen them.

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Suz



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