12 June 2011

Snakes with Peter

People who are afraid of snakes should approach a fire heap with caution. Compost enthusiasts are busy stirring elsewhere and a fire heap, with its carpet of insulation and its deep rotting bed can be very attractive to a single snake. A single snake quickly becomes a nest of snakes however. Happily at Marsh Hall we like to find all kinds of living creatures, between the lifting of the carpet and the emptying of the bucket therein. As long as they're not baby rats...

We uncover one of these snake nests in the fire heap, a shady place behind the walled garden. As one grass snake slithers away, another waits patiently to be photographed.* Peter has information to impart. This snake has just laid eggs, or is about to. It is a female: they are bigger than males. She may have laid up to 40 eggs and since females come together to lay in the same place, this heap could have 1000 eggs in it. They have thick leathery shells and the hatchlings emerge in the autumn. What a beautifully engineered creature she is. Grass snakes are the largest reptiles in the UK... how does Peter have all this grass snake information at his fingertips? 'I saw a programme about them on telly last night,' he says, rather crushingly.

*One way of telling an adder from a grass snake is that the latter has a friendly round pupil, while a venomous snake has a vertical pupil, like a Disney snake. This one isn't giving much away. When they are about to shed, the eyes can be covered with a blue film and the snake becomes lethargic, which is fortunate for the reporter of snakes.

1 comment:

  1. just seen a snake in my garden it has left me petrified with all windows closed not going in the garden and thinking of putting my bungalow up for sale,what can i do to be and feel safe again,this is my worst nightmare.