Sunday, 3 July 2011

DragonHunter and the Valley of Snakes

There was a Grass Snake Information walk at Gibside yesterday morning so I trotted up with eldest sprog to find out about creatures I didn‘t know too much about. Interesting stuff, learned about habitat management, the network of ponds, basking stations, hibernacula and specialised breeding sites (compost heaps) put in place over the last few years. The whole landscape is being reshaped, land previously owned by the forestry commission (ie blocks of useless conifers) is gradually being replaced by native deciduous trees and open heathland, but in five years the resident herpetoligist has only seen two snakes (and both on the same day) so not much chance of seeing one at the moment. To be fair they are still a rarity around here but the measures being put in place not only at Gibside but all over the Derwent Valley riverside will be beneficial to a host of water-based species (including of course dragonflies), and they hope that in fifteen years time they will be a much commoner sight.

On a brighter note the walk ended at the Octagonal Pond, where a male Emperor Dragonfly and my first Southern Hawker of the year were both patrolling, excellent, wasn’t sure if I’d get an Emperor on my home patch so definitely a bonus. No pictures though, I tried but both individuals were too quick for me and I was hindered by the bairn who had been very patient during the walk so didn‘t want to detain him from his play for too long.
I’ve realised I haven’t been posting photos of the actual sites for you to get an idea of what the areas are like for the associated species, so will remedy that by getting some snaps on my forthcoming visits, and here is the first, the Octagonal Pond at Gibside.
Octagonal Pond - Gibside
One of 14 ponds on the estate, this one a designated SSSI (due to the presence
of Great Crested Newts) and a very scenic setting

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