Friday 2 July 2010

Wild In The Summer Garden - Reptiles (and Amphibians?)

Calling John from Transition Circle Hethersett of toad-saving fame! Do you know who this little creature I found amongst the pots the other day might be? Does someone else know? I've seen them occasionally disappear into the dark damp green through the years, always this size, which as you see is very small. This is the first time I've been able to pick one up and take a photo. Young newt? Young lizard?

A few months ago I described this same creature to Erik (also in TC Hethersett), who'd dug up an unknown hibernating creature in his garden. Somehow in that exchange we discovered we both spoke German, but I was left none the wiser as Erik told me that being a microbiologist didn't necessarily mean you could identify amphibians. It could also have been my description of course.

The other day we arrived home to find this grass snake on the path. Calm and collected as you like, he/she flicked his/her tongue and stayed right there whilst I fumbled for the camera and took several pictures. Eventually we had to move forward to get past and only then did the snake move, slowly, into the long grass.

The grass snakes live in our compost heap, which means that it's not a compost heap for quite a lot of the year. I've found up to seven of them at once, all different sizes. It's really exciting to lift up the old carpet and see them curled up absorbing the heat. This year they are sharing with a common lizard, ants and other insects.

Oh, and you know I was talking about
our low carbon cat a few weeks ago. Well, she continues to feed herself. First she brings her catch to show us. Then at some point she has her dinner. And she rarely leaves anything on her plate.

Pics: As yet unidentified creature on my hand; Grass snake on the path; the path to the compost heap; low carbon cat food; the compost heap snake and lizard home all by Mark Watson June/July 2010


  1. Hi Mark,

    Since John is on holidays, let me give you a partial answer, because I did learn a little bit since December, and now know that lizards have five toes, and salamanders, including newts mostly have four toes on their front legs and five toes on their hind legs.

    Best wishes,

  2. Hi Mark
    Super post! I think it's a newt. We had newts and lizards when we lived in the Waveney Valley. The lizards lived under the stairs, between the pamments on the sandy floor (no damp proof course); they liked to be dry. The newts spent a lot of their time in a biggish pond on the edge of a field. They were much chunkier than the lizards. We never had any snakes though...
    Best wishes - Jane

  3. Hello Mark - to confirm what Jane and Erik have said I believe that it is a Common Newt in terrestrial form - see

    Newts do change their appearance a lot when they leave the water. What I'm not sure is whether it is one of this year's new born or is a one year old. I think it is a bit early for this year's newts to be leaving their ponds but it looks a bit small for a one year old. Newts like a damp, shady corner with a pile of old bricks to crawl under.

    I've always envied newts as they swim lazily around in the pond on a warm day - not sure that I fancy their diet though!

  4. Thank you everyone! So Common Newt it is amongst the pots. There's no pond in the immediate vicinity, but it's certainly damp and dark in there. I checked the other photos I took and can you believe the toes were hidden in all of them.

    All the best,