Its the last day of the 30 Days wild challenge today and the weather was warm and dry for a change.
I spent the day in Flintshire, Wales on a survey with ARC (Amphibian and reptile conservation) as part of the Dragonscapes project.
The project is looking at reptile populations and distributions in North East Wales, but today we were looking for amphibians as well as reptiles.
We walked through grassland, meadow, woodland and around old ruined buildings. There are lots of fantastic trees here which are great for wildlife and no doubt home or shelter for a lot of creatures in the area.
We walked around old ruined buildings looking under logs and stones. These old buildings make great habitats for a number of creatures, and crevices in walls are great places for reptiles and small mammals to hide.
One of the standard techniques for surveying for the presence of reptiles is to lay out felt mats or metal corrugated sheets (known as refugia) in suitable habitats. Artificial refugia are frequently used and are a reliable method for assessing reptile presence on a sites. Reptiles are attracted to the warmth that these provide and take cover underneath, sometimes coming out on top to bask in the sun. These refugia can then be checked for the presence or absence of reptiles and amphibians.
Following the ARC conservation officer for North Wales we came across the refugia and got ready to carefully lift. Under the first refugia we lifted there was a toad, which was lovely to see. Under the other refugia sheets we saw a palmate newt, several toads and lots of spiders carrying egg sacks under the refugia; and when we lifted one refugia a little field vole came scurrying towards me and into the long grass at my feet.
Of course, as I was walking around today I couldn’t help but stop and admire the other wildlife, fungi, trees and wildflowers. There was an array of different lichens and fungi. There were beautiful orchids and a stunning ancient oak tree.
Unfortunately due to the recent wet weather and muggy conditions, there were hundreds of horseflies eating us alive, though on the upside there were also lots of swallows flying close to the ground eating them.
To end the day I even got to hold a slow worm and I swear I could feel live young wriggling inside her and I am convinced I caught a glimpse of a barn owl too.
I had a fantastic time in North Wales today surrounded by great friends and wonderful wildlife.
I love nature.