Sometimes things just happen out of the blue.
Smooth Snake : Photo by Andy Fale, Dorset Wildlife Trust
Yesterday I decided to drive to Ringwood to buy a bag for my new camcorder. I’d got fed up of carting it around in a cardboard box and thought it deserved a proper home.
Don’t laugh but I’d actually spotted a fishing tackle bag at one of the fishing shops in Ringwood the week before, and as it was exactly the right size and shape I decided to bite the bullet and buy it.
Ringwood, on the edge of the New Forest, isn’t that far from where I live, 13 miles to be exact. To get to it you have to travel down the A31, a partly single-lane and dual-carriageway road that was built some years ago through mostly heathland habitat (pretty controversial).
Coming to a roundabout at a place near to Ferndown Forest I noticed several one-metre squares of corrugated iron sheeting at the side of the road, spread across the gorse and bracken. I’m incredibly nosey by nature so I pulled the car over and went to have a closer look.
A company called Mott MacDonald were undertaking an environmental survey and were obviously using the corrugated iron to encourage reptiles. The sheets get incredibly warm when it’s sunny, and snakes and slow-worms love to hide under them to soak up the heat.
Maybe I shouldn’t have but I tentatively looked under a couple of sheets. Nothing. I looked under another and staring up at me was a rather bewildered wood-mouse who I apologised to and left in peace. Just two more sheets left. Under one a slow-worm. Glowing, bronzed and beautiful. Under the other a small brown and black snake coiled and lying perfected still.
Now I wasn’t absolutely sure what it was and typically I DIDN’T have my camera. So I memorized it’s important identification features, carefully laid the sheet back down, and dashed home to look in my ID book.
Fifteen minutes later, staring at the picture in the book there was no doubt about it… it was a smooth snake. The countries rarest reptile and my first ever UK snake.