ARC’s Connecting the Dragons Project Officer, Peter Hill updates us on the teams recent work to improve adder habitats in South Wales.

Alongside our ongoing work to improve the adder’s public image, ARC’s Connecting the Dragons staff have been undertaking habitat management to benefit the local adder population and other reptiles at a National Nature Reserve in South Wales.  Lizards (including slow-worms), grass snakes and adders all utilise the site and surrounding area, which comprises a mosaic of habitats including grassland, marsh, woodland and sand dune.

Grass snake by Nick Dobbs

Maintaining sun-lit edges and interfaces throughout the woody areas maintains connectivity for many smaller species and also enables reptiles to migrate seasonally within a site, whilst also providing opportunities to bask and forage whilst doing so. For example, grass snakes range far and wide throughout the area and regularly use such sunny vegetated edges to travel along. In late spring or early summer, female grass snakes that are gravid (carrying eggs) need to migrate toward a suitable location where their eggs will incubate successfully.  There is a choice of options for a female grass snake to deposit her eggs within the area, and maintaining the sunny corridors and glades provides an essential network of safe migration routes throughout the habitat mosaic.

The cut timber and brash arisings resulting from the work are used to create brash piles. Creating brash piles within clearings and along sunny edges also increases essential structural diversity at ground level.  The increased complexity and diversity of structure at ground level that the tangle of brash, logs, branches and twigs provides maximises opportunities for solar-powered reptiles, providing safe refuge, microclimates for effective basking and also, an environment in which prey species can thrive. 

Indeed, it’s not just reptiles that benefit from sun-lit rides.  Making sure that the rides, tracks, glades and clearings don’t become overgrown also enables a greater diversity of ground cover plants to flourish, particularly along sunny edges.  The species-rich clearings and sunny edges provide a diverse range of microhabitats. Such sun-traps are sheltered from the wind and are utilised by a wide range of wildlife such as roosting dragonflies, birds and butterflies and enable a range of flowering plants to flourish and provide nectar for pollinators.  Management like this to keep rides, glades and clearings open also provides accessible nocturnal foraging routes for bat species. 

George carrying out chainsaw work by Pete Hill

As if that all wasn’t enough, there was another benefit to the management task.  Our new Project Officer George was able to gain some further chainsaw experience under supervision and shortly following the work, he successfully passed his assessment!  The habitat management team have a full Winter schedule of work ahead of them this year, and George has already become a valuable addition to the team. 

Next to benefit from habitat management will be great crested newts as the team will be pruning back around breeding ponds to ensure that enough vital sunlight continues to reach the ponds. The team will also be creating some new ponds.  We will keep you updated here with progress in the coming months!

If you'd like to read more about ARC’s Connecting the Dragon project and how to get involved visit the project page.

Funded by: