Every naturalist has a species on their wildlife bucket list that is ‘the one that got away’. Time and time again you make it your mission to finally seek out this elusive creature, and time and time again you fail and are instead faced with “It was here a minute ago” or “Oh, you’ve just missed it”. You begin to feel that you are hunting a mythical beast and everyone else has seen the unicorn critter except you!
The Grass Snake has been my ‘one that got away’ for years. Until today.
Today I saw my very first Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) and my arduous reptilian mission has finally come to a victorious end!
However, I did not become one of the triumphant orators of “it’s just disappeared” or “you’d have seen it you had arrived a minute ago”. In fact, no one was. The notoriously, shy and elusive reptile has lounged in the sun for all to see for hours, and is most likely still lounging as I write.
The Ashby hide at RSPB Rye Meads, a usually peaceful corner of the nature reserve was a hub of activity as a steady flow of nature lovers followed rumours of a very conspicuous grass snake right to their source.
Young and old spectators observed the largest reptile species the UK has to offer coil and sinuate on a well-placed heap of dead grass. Adjacent to the heap lies a pool of water home to amphibians and fish which is the perfect source of food for the salient snake.
As the snake basked in the warm sunshine to regulate its body temperature the growing gathering were able to see the characteristic black and yellow collar present on the back of the neck. While grass snakes can be grey, brown or olive-green this exquisite individual showcased dusky olive scales with distinctive black bars lining its sides.
I feel very privileged that I was among the assembly of snake watchers today and I feel very grateful that the bold Grass Snake decided to lay on that grass heap, completing the vista of a vibrant reedbed scene with the song of sedge warblers the perfect fanfare to signal the end of my quest.
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