On Saturday 15th September Amphibian and Reptile Conservation held the first dedicated Friends Day in Dorset since becoming Amphibian and Reptile Conservation in 2009. We had 14 attendees, some travelling from as far afield as Wales and Suffolk to come and meet species they hadn’t seen before!

Dr Tony Gent, ARC’s C.E.O kicked off the day with an introduction to Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, what we get up to and media coverage of snakes - especially the adder and how it has suffered through history with a bad reputation. Gary Powell, Senior Reserves Manager followed with his presentation on Reptiles and gave a run- down of our native species, how they behave and how they use their habitats and just before lunch John Buckley, Amphibian Conservation Officer talked about our native amphibians including the extensive work he has done over the years with Natterjack toads. After a quick tea break Gary went on to describe how we manage the heath to benefit herpetofauna and what would happen if the management didn’t take place.

Over the lunch break we had a grass snake, two smooth snakes, two slow-worms and three sand lizards to introduce to everybody. For some it was their first experience of seeing a smooth snake in the flesh and they were surprised at just how smooth and silky they were to touch! The sand lizards were also a rare treat for some - many thanks to Martin Noble of New Forest Ecological Consultants for lending us the two captive bred sand lizards!

Before long we had the snakes and lizards bagged up and we made our way on to Parley Common. Gary did a great job showing everybody round pointing out areas of interest such as potential hibernacula. One of my highlights was the release of a rescued sand lizard which had been found on site a couple of days earlier and had been trapped in some scrapped scaffolding for up to two months. After a good meal of crickets the night before, he reluctantly left Gary (minus part of his tail) to fatten himself up before going in to hibernation!

The sun was very hot in the afternoon so it wasn’t ideal for spotting reptiles out in the open but we did find some under tins and some common lizards basking in the gorse. Heathland is full of wildlife and whilst we made our way around the reserve to put our snakes and slow-worms back under their tins we saw buzzards, stonechats, caterpillars, butterflies, spiders, grass hoppers and heathland plants such as the marsh gentian and sundew and these attracted just as much attention!

It was a superb day and I really enjoyed meeting and speaking to everyone. Many thanks to those who came along to enjoy the day with us, to the staff members that put their time in and to John Hanrahan - Manager of the Heatherlands Centre.

Angela Reynolds
Admin Support Officer & HopGossip Editor