Jan 17 2022

Reptilian Recovery at Fingle Woods

Snce the restoration of Fingle Woods began, ecological records have played an important part of demonstrating the benefits of good woodland habitat management by showing where wildlife is increasing in abundance and range. This blog explains how ecologists have surveyed for reptiles during the summer and then spend time writing up their reports after the season is over, to add to the growing data to support the valuable conservation work.

Woodland restoration creates new patterns in the landscape. Among the ranks of planted conifer trees, small gaps are appearing, giving diversity a helping hand. Plants and animals are gradually recovering from the darker days of shady woodland and are now creating their own patterns in response to the conservation work. In these places, species surveys are showing that there are some good results where they have been able to recover and, in other areas, it is going to take more time. Some groups of species move slowly and take longer to re-establish a local population where their absence has been, like a missing link in Fingle’s food web, the interdependent variety of life at all levels. But, more and more, as we keep the good work going, we are rewarded. As we provide the right habitat and present nature with the opportunity, it will gladly accept and add its colour to the patterns of life in the woods

Common lizard in wet grassland

In this case, a survey of reptiles is starting to show this process in action. After years of conservation forestry, creating space between the rows and glades along the edges, more open habitats have revealed a common lizard basking here and a slow worm sheltering there. The team of ecologists from Devon Wildlife Consultants have just produced their report on a “Reptile Survey undertaken in two broad areas within the Fingle Woods complex”. The report explains that “The first survey area comprises Wooston Hillfort and nearby open areas” and a second site in Halls Cleave, where the successive thinning of conifers has given ground level vegetation a chance to recover, going on to say that “habitats within all surveyed compartments provide a suitable mixture of foraging and basking habitats for reptiles”.

Following on from the 2020 survey, in 2021 they again followed a standard procedure using ‘refugia’ to provide a shelter for these ‘cold-blooded’ creatures to find warmth and protection. By laying out a series of dark-coloured mats the ecologists can attract the snakes and lizards into a temporary shelter of roofing felt or a corrugated sheet. Over 100 of these refugia were laid out in the target zones in Fingle from April and on through the summer. These would be inspected every few weeks when the weather was most favourable. Still, warm and sunny mornings are the best.

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