Dave McCourt thinks some thoughts...

Natrix natrix excitement

Posted in: Me

Easter Sunday was very exciting not just because of the egg hunt that was a great success with the kids. We had an unexpected visitor to our garden. Holly had set up  a little barrel pond to attract wildlife a few years ago. We’ve introduced some tadpoles each year and had some frogs and toads return. It had been fairly barren for the past few years (possibly due to an oil leak from our tank) but we had seen the odd frog now and then. Up until a couple of weeks ago we had three frogs who had been leisurely enjoying our hospitality. We thought that they’d just moved on to pastures new but yesterday we found out where they’d gone.

Holly spotted a snake that had become tangled in the netting used to keep the leaves out. It was really stuck and the plastic wire had wound round its body very tightly. I thought it was a grass snake but our neighbour Robin said it was definitely an adder, making everyone a bit jittery with his tales of horse legs swollen to the size of tree trunks from adder bites. Donning some thick gloves Robin held the snake and I cut it free with some scissors; it was very tricky as the snake was incredibly strong and writhed around a lot. I wanted to make sure I didn’t cut it as it already appeared to have sliced itself from its struggle. It later turned out to be its cloaca, more comonly known as a reptilian anus. The snake emitted a really foul smell as I cut it free and then proceeded to play dead.

Grass snake held by Peter Dyer

Our local wildlife expert Holly’s dad, Peter, later identified it as a grass snake (Natrix natrix) and said the foul smell and playing dead are common tactics to ward off attackers. Peter also said that ‘nobody ever sees a grass snake, all snakes are adders’. Everyone likes to think the worse it seems.

We released the snake back into the bushes by our frog-pantry pond once we’d measured it: just under a metre. Grass snakes have a distinctive light yellow collar except in older females, so it seems we’d rescued an old girl. Thoroughly beautiful and exciting.