Grass snakes may be seen basking in sheltered sunny places on mild and sunny days after rain from March or April until the beginning of October. Look out for them in woodland glades or embankments not far from water. They are Britain’s longest snake growing to about 1 metre.
Grass snakes are widespread in England and Wales and absent from some parts of northern England, most of Scotland and Ireland. They are known to be present in the south-east of Yorkshire Dales National Park but are rarely seen. This species is a UK priority species and in 2010 became a priority species for the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Lizards are often the first of the reptiles out of hibernation in the Spring. They may be seen basking in sheltered, sunny places like footpaths on mild, sunny days after rain from early spring until the beginning of October. The colouration of common lizards is variable but mainly shades of green and brown with light and dark coloured spots lines or flecks.
The common lizard, is thought to be widespread throughout the country, living in heathland and grassland habitats. In the Yorkshire Dales National Park this species is thought to be widespread but not common. However, nationally its numbers are declining due to habitat loss.
The slow worm, is a legless lizard and looks like a small, shiny, metallic-looking snake. This species is relatively common throughout England, Wales and Scotland favouring mature tussocky grasslands on sunny banks.
Nationally slow worm populations are declining due to habitat loss and it has been a UK priority species since 2007. In the Yorkshire Dales National Park this species it thought to be uncommon but due to a shortage of trained surveyors its current distribution and status in the National Park is unknown. Areas where it has been formally recorded include Wharfedale and Arkengarthdale. In 2010, the slow worm became a Yorkshire Dales National Park priority species.
Common frogs are native to the UK and can be found in a wide range of habitats throughout the Dales.
Frogs need shallow water bodies to breed in and will use anything from puddles to ponds and lakes.
Frogs can be identified both by how they look and how they move. Frogs jump rather than walking (as toads (Bufo bufo) do) and they have smooth, pale green/yellow skin (though there are other colours,) stripes on their hind legs, dark patches behind their eyes which have a horizontal pupil. Frogs eat invertebrates on land and in the water.
Common frogs are in decline across their range including the Yorkshire Dales and this is fundamentally due to habitat loss and a reduction in habitat quality as well as the emergence of new diseases.
The palmate newt at 9cm’s long is only slightly smaller than the smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris). The two species are very similar so pay careful attention to the identification features; palmate newts have spots on their throats whereas smooth newts don’t.
The palmate newt is native to Britain but is more patchily distributed than the smooth newt as it prefers shallow ponds in areas of acidic soil. Moorland, bogs and heathland are the most often used habitats and the palmate newt is adapted to these habitats by being more tolerant of dry conditions than the smooth newt.
Palmate newts lay their eggs on aquatic plants in the shallow, acidic ponds in spring and by late summer both adults and young newts emerge to spend the autumn and winter on land – invertebrates are fed on throughout the year.
The main driver in the decline of the palmate newt is habitat destruction and degradation.
The smooth newt is about 10cm’s long and is the most widespread newt we have in the UK. The smooth newt can be easily confused with the slightly smaller palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus) so careful attention should be paid to identification features as well as habitat. Smooth newts do not have spots on their throats whereas palmate newts do.
Native to Britain the smooth newt needs damp areas of habitat where it finds invertebrates to eat.
The smooth newt lays its eggs on the leaves of aquatic plants and the larvae (tadpoles) live in the ponds before leaving them in the summer.
Adults spend over half the year in land based habitats wherever conditions are suitable.
The most significant threats to the smooth newt are habitat loss and fragmentation of the remaining habitat preventing the animals from moving through the landscape.