Carrying out reptile surveys may seem like a daunting task at first, but it is actually a very simple process. Anyone can survey without the need for prior experience, money or equipment. Plus, there are only four species to learn, so it won’t take long before you are confidently identifying each of one them! The four widespread species include grass snakes, adders, common lizards and slow-worms. If you’re not sure how to identify them, check out their info pages here. We do have two additional native reptiles, the smooth snake and sand lizard, however they are incredibly rare and a license is required to survey for them, so it is best to focus on the four widespread species.
The survey season usually runs from March to October, although it is dependent on weather conditions. Choose a dry, sunny day, ideally with little to no wind, and temperatures between 8-18°C. This is when reptiles are most likely to be out basking to regulate their body temperature. Sunny weather immediately after cold or rainy conditions is perfect, as reptiles will be eager to get out and bask immediately. The next step is to choose a suitable location to survey. Choose an area that is fairly open with varied vegetation structure; think a ‘mosaic’ of vegetation. Reptiles also love habitat edges and transitional zones between different habitat types (e.g. woodland and grassland), and even path edges bordered by vegetation can be great. Try to avoid monocultures and areas which are heavily disturbed by humans.
Now we are ready to survey! The easiest method to start with is the visual encounter method. Simply plan a walking route as long or short as you like, that will go through areas of suitable habitat, and remember to stick to habitat edges as much as possible. Walk slowly along your route looking for reptiles as you go. Reptiles will typically bask on or under objects that get hot in the sun, so be sure to check any of these. Abandoned tyres and metal sheeting are particularly popular. Remember to take your time, be as quiet as you can, and scan ahead. If you see or hear rustling, stop, take a step back, and wait 5-10 minutes. If reptiles are disturbed while basking, they usually return to the same spot soon after.
reptiles. All of our data is sent to the National Biodiversity Network every year and is publically available.
Now you know when and how to survey, it’s time to get started! We are setting you a challenge for this upcoming survey season: go out and conduct 2-4 daytime surveys (although the more the merrier), and record any sightings on the Dragon Finder App! Visual encounter surveys are a fantastic way to get outside into nature, and don’t require any money, equipment or experience. Just head out and give it a go! We would love to hear how you get on, so please do get in touch with our Discovering Reptiles Project Officer firstname.lastname@example.org to share any stories or photos of your experience – whether you found any reptiles or not!
If you’re still a bit unsure, we have several online resources to help you out. Check out our reptile species info pages if you’re not sure about your ID skills, and take a look at our reptile survey guide for more survey tips. If you get stuck, you can always get in touch with email@example.com from our Discovering Reptiles project, and she will be more than happy to answer any questions. All that’s left to do now is to download the Dragon Finder App and you are ready to go!
Best of luck with your reptile surveys, and have fun!