RAUK - Archived Forum - MERSEA ISLAND ESSEX ADDERS

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MERSEA ISLAND ESSEX ADDERS:

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AGILIS
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Posted: 06 Jul 2010
Hi folks took a trip to Mersea island this morning to look for some adders, Arrived by my 4x4 truck that I left some miles away from the sight as I had my mountain bike on the back.Then cycled to the acclaimed sight at Cudmore grove not having a clue were to start, then looked across the car park and spotted some rough looking ground with lots of nice brambles & stingers, that seem to abound when I am wearing shorts, and decided this looks a good spot.Been there about 5minutes and a lady with a small child and dog came past, and said good morning, then I decided to ask her the daft question if she was local and seen any, which she replied o yes quite often an pointed to a bush, thanked her and had a look and as she said one was laying there a small female that took off so no photo.Proceeding along the track by the car park, I spotted the warden named Dougal who pointed out a few more spots all near the car park that was begining to fill up with dog walkers and kids with footballs. I thought surely not being so close, and behold spotted two distinctive mails basking together who hopped it as soon as I switched on the camera. then spotted a tail dissapearing and got a shot, then another laying out stretched with its head hidden managed to snap that.Then mistook a branch that I thought was a nat, snapped that my eyes must be bad. I did see one lv. And had a look at the hibenacular that was constructed and on TV early this year looked a bit like a grave , then cycled of feeling satisfied , stopped for second and put me bike on an embankment and could not believe it a very light coloured one next my handlebars that took off, very please with this mini trip only sad thing is the adders living around near the car park really need their habitat fenced of with more forceable notices then the one that requests dogs be kept on leads as the disturbance will diminish the habitat, but the weather was overcast and warm ideal herping conditions




Pic of me stick snake

AGILIS40365.8003240741
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herpetologic2
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Joined: 15 Jun 2004
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Posted: 06 Jul 2010
Ahhh Mersea Island an excellent reptile site and Dougal
is a top lad.

That hibernacula is looking great - I helped build it you
see - I have created four in this area (Mersea & Peldon)
and they work really well. The hibernacula in the picture
was dug by hand - Dougal and a young lad called Shaun

It was almost a metre deep - 2 metres wide and 5 metres
long - when I arrived I was pretty amazed as it was 1
days digging - they did very well!

It took us less than a few hours to fill it lol!

On the signage front I think that they have it just right
- if the signs were any more forceful then I would
suggest that they are counter productive. Cudmore Grove
is an interesting case study as we have data for the
adders over the last 7 years and it has clearly shown
that adders have moved into the CP from the seawall as
the EA heavily cut the wall and so the adders have
dispersed into the country park. However with the numbers
of people (including over 90 on reptile walks) the
disturbance is possibly having an effect on adder numbers
being detected each spring - the trend is downwards over
the last 5 years

An important example where the Make the Adder Count
methodology is useful to record the status of adder
colonies.

Another Essex Country Park has an opposite attitude
towards the public and its adders - the adders are not
publicised at all - the one reptile walk which was
organised with myself led to these being banned as a
bunch of the Essex Amphibian & Reptile Club turned up
with snake hooks coming out of their ears. The Ranger
decided on that day that he did not want to have reptile
walks.

Dougal at Cudmore Grove believes he is doing important PR
work for the adders with plenty of people coming to the
Park to see adders in the wild.

Last year he had 90 people and they found 9 adult adders
who behaved well enough for everyone to see them very
close up.

Back in at the other country park though the adders
number around 45 - with groups of 2 or 3 and up to 15 or
so in the spring. The Ranger knows where each colony is
and he intends to keep the adders under wraps as best he
can - hence I have not revealed the name of the country
park.

The adder count data on the country park has shown that
the numbers are stable so the difference in management of
the adders could explain this but we need more data

J

(The hibernacula was on country file btw)


herpetologic240365.9316087963
Vice Chair of ARG UK - self employed consultant -
visit ARG UK & Alresford Wildlife
tim hamlett
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Joined: 17 Dec 2006
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Posted: 06 Jul 2010

enjoyed your post keith.

watch out for them stick snakes, they can be viscious!

tim


AGILIS
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Posted: 07 Jul 2010
Hi Tim & Jon I would like to point out that Dougal Urquat the warden of Cudmore, was most helpful in pointing out the known spots as you can see this is a special place as far as adder colonies go in Essex , as I have seen the demise of them in several areas in the county over the years due to intrusion by dog walkers etc, that is why I think some places should have minimum fencing not to restrictive just to deter people from ruining their habitat as ball games + dogs do not go hand in hand with the wildlife. keith
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herpetologic2
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Posted: 07 Jul 2010
Hi Keith

It is a well known site for adders - it is one of the few
which are regularly monitored in Essex. The thing you
have to take on board is that the site is a country park
and there is massive ruining of the adder's habitat on
the seawall by the EA - this is far more damaging. The
adder population is adapting to the changes at the site
from the seawall to the country park

They seem to be bearing up despite the close nature of
the site users and surprising very few dogs are bitten -
low key fences and dead hedging is one of the things
which Dougal is looking into - he has to be careful not
to upset the dog walkers and other human users.

I was merely pointing out the importance of monitoring
adder numbers in the spring - it reveals interesting data
which provides clues to how well the animals are doing

I have a list of the top sites for adders in Essex

Epping Forest was the best up until the turn of the
century where there has been a 60% decline in spring
numbers in 10 years

Essex CP I mentioned is on a par now with Epping Forest
and has not experienced any decline with numbers stable -
total peak numbers of 45 in 2010 - probably the largest
number of adders found so far in a site in Essex

Cudmore grove CP - there has been a small decline over 5
years - 35% in spring count numbers

Backwarden - this site has peak count of 18 adult adders
which is interesting as their habitat is being reduced by
heathland restoration - they are bunching up in the last
remaining hibernation area and are dispersing to
other external sites including gardens!

Jherpetologic240366.4220717593
Vice Chair of ARG UK - self employed consultant -
visit ARG UK & Alresford Wildlife
AGILIS
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Joined: 27 Feb 2007
No. of posts: 694


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Posted: 07 Jul 2010
Hi J Yes Epping forest was a great place in the 1950/60s that has now been ruined by over management and tidying up. Also there was a few at Fordham heath near Colchester that have now dissapeared, be interested if you have seen any around Donnyland area on the Mersea road Roman river area ? as I see you mentioned the Peldon area keith
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ben rigsby
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Joined: 27 Apr 2010
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Posted: 08 Jul 2010
fab report keith. thanks. really interesting and enjoyable. i worked all over bucks/herts/norfolk and especially ESSEX during the avian 'flu' scare. surveillance. locating and collecting dead birds reported by landowners or the public and taking them back to DEFRA in chelmsford (where i was staying)for lab testing. i went to many nice places in the weeks i was there but never saw an adder but then, i was too busy to stop and search properly.

remarkable stick snake! must be an alien escape. it was certainly worthy of a pic!

regarding the sign. i totally agree with herpetologic. its fair and balanced in its wording and not too detailed to put people off bothering to read it.
it was a good idea to photograph and post that too.

ben
Diversity.
GemmaJF
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Posted: 12 Jul 2010
Re Backwarden, It's no surprise the animals are
dispersing into gardens, the traditional spring dispersal
area is now a wasteland. So Jon you have taken on board
now the head count is increasing at the main hibernation
site for all the wrong reasons? In the past you seemed to
think it was a good sign.

I also seem to remember the last major clearance was
thought of as all good stuff at the time because they
were bunging in a few hibernacula as they wrecked the
site.. not much good if there is nowhere with suitable
vegetative cover for the animals to disperse into during
the spring.

The adder populations on the adjacent Danbury Common BTW
appear to have crashed in the past two years at 3 of the
4 locations I know of. No surprise as conservation there
consists of pulling out all the vegetation with tractors,
same old story a few adders left in isolated patches that
persisted for a while.

I'm surprised Jon you think only a few adder sites in
Essex are regularly monitored, you perhaps mean only a
few sites are monitored by yourself or your associates

Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
herpetologic2
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Joined: 15 Jun 2004
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Posted: 12 Jul 2010
Hi Gemma

No I did not think that the increase in numbers was a
good sign as like you I was concerned about the lack of
cover after the habitat clearance by the Essex Wildlife
Trust.

The first clearance which was some distance away from the
ponds and main adder area has developed into very nice
habitat - we can only hope that the reptiles have
recolonised.

We have burned our bridges with EWT and NE on the issues
at the Backwarden. However ARG UK and ARC trust are now
taking up such issues as the adder is a key species under
the National BAP - John Baker is looking into concerns
regarding the adder sites in Epping Forest - a local has
been monitoring the sites for over ten years and so we
have data to show that a key interest feature of the SSSI
is being harmed by the management works - slightly
stronger position than at the back warden - though I will
check the citation again

Here are the adder sites which I know about

1.Bonners Barn - Colchester*
2. Cudmore grove CP - Mersea*
3. Essex CP - South Essex*
4. Back warden - Chelmsford
5. Danbury Common - Chelmsford
6. Langdon Hills - Basildon*
7. Nevendon Washland - Basildon (to be monitored -
translocation site)
8. Epping Forest multiple sites*
There are plenty more - the ones with an asterix are ones
which have more than five years worth of count data

If anyone can provide any further count data from the
spring in the last 5 years then please do send in the
results - the county recorder - Moi!



Vice Chair of ARG UK - self employed consultant -
visit ARG UK & Alresford Wildlife
AGILIS
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Joined: 27 Feb 2007
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Posted: 13 Jul 2010
Hi Gemma glad to hear from you on the sight as you have been a bit quiet of recent keith
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GemmaJF
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Posted: 25 Jul 2010
Hi Keith, I find life is generally better away from
internet forums

"The first clearance which was some distance away from
the
ponds and main adder area has developed into very nice
habitat - we can only hope that the reptiles have
recolonised."

It's nothing to do with hope, it's to do with proper
survey, the answer is no the area is not recolonised by
adder, slowworms or grass snakes, a few common lizard
occasionally. I wouldn't expect the area to be
recolonised by adder for years to come, the soil
structure is destroyed so not really very nice habitat if
you are an adder. It use to be mature gorse and adder of
all lifestages could be found at the bases it was an
extremely important area for congregations of gravid
females.. not anymore.

So Jon when are you going to put my name forward for
consideration as county recorder to the field club like
you said you would? Then I can send my extensive Essex
records to myself.

You never know I might even be able to mend a few of the
bridges that got burnt, I do seem to have rather a lot of
time on my hands these days.... The record of you saying
it was a 'good thing'that the numbers were increasing at
the main hibernacula at Backwarden is BTW still on this
forum, I'm not about to dig out the thread but it was
your own words. Of course my data is not based on a
spring head count alone which could lead to sweeping
conclusions, rather 6 years now of careful recording
throughout the active season across the entire site.GemmaJF40384.8210763889
Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
herpetologic2
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Joined: 15 Jun 2004
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Posted: 26 Jul 2010
Gemma

If you want to be the Essex Herpetofauna Recorder then I
can send this email to Peter Harvey and they will approve
this appointment and so you can take on the data
searches, and the role of county recorder for Essex. I
would assume that you are a member of the field club?

I would like to use your data to compare the Backwarden
with other Essex adder sites - I have lots of spring
count data which is just a record of the spring emergence
which is when most adders are seen (mostly males) and the
simplest method to monitor numbers.

I have never said that the clearance as it stands was a
good thing at the Backwarden - we have tried to influence
what the EWT were doing - we even had face to face
meetings about the issue and they were hiding behind the
local Natural England Team - who were funding the habitat
clearance.

The small initial clearance nearest the road is the bit
where I thought if I could survey I would find reptiles -
the rest of the area which has been cleared has been a
disaster for the reptile population along with the
Dormice that were found there.

I have also tried to stop the works around the gcn pond -
in fact Paul Cantwell from NE investigated the matter and
actually found that they had the wrong license - a clear
case of destroying newt terrestrial habitat - no
significant action was taken - in fact I was not even
invited to the site meeting - it was Paul, Local NE, and
EWT - so of course they were found out - Mark Iley was
given a general license to clear vegetation by hand tools
yet they were using heavy machinery.

So all I would like to know Gemma is how many snakes were
seen during the spring through your field surveys - you
will be fully credited and I will only use the data for
conservation purposes -

Once you have become the county recorder I will forward
all the county data to you -0 I think that would be
possible through the Essex field Club website and their
species database.


Jon


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GemmaJF
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Posted: 03 Aug 2010
Yes Jon I am a member of the Essex field club.

I guess I've heard a different story regarding Backwarden
on the ground. It was very much a case of being told that
after your meeting with EWT they seemed to think you
supported the works.

Shame as if I had also attended the meeting I could have
provided a further two years of records which indicated
the amount of damage being done to the adder populations
by habitat clearance work at Backwarden and the adjacent
Danbury Common.

I know all about the various parties hiding behind each
other, very frustrating it is too.


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
AGILIS
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Joined: 27 Feb 2007
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Posted: 04 Aug 2010
hi Gemma I think the main problem of Herp conservation in my areas in Suffolk still lies with the people running organisations like Nat england and the likes , are all mainly twitchers,whose ony interest in our area is to rip out all the hibennacular on various local heaths to promote the stone curlew with new habitat at the expense of other animals ,because the stone curlews original habitat has been ruined by past farming practices .Also had a report of the odd adder seen on the golf course near west Bergholt??I also viewed Layer Breton heath at Birch yesterday but bit to warm, but had been told by a local naturalist, that grass snakes and lizards and sloworms were -present but you cant rule out adders because they havent been spotted as its a large area still plenty of gatekeepers about , keith
AGILIS40394.3437037037
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- MERSEA ISLAND ESSEX ADDERS

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