This page is not meant to be read as a blog post in the conventional sense, but is provided as a supplementary resource that supports the many individual species records available elsewhere on our website. It consists of general information about the eleven species categories in our species database. This more general information has been removed from individual species pages and gathered together here in a central location. When you view any individual species page, you will see a link to the text relevant to that species’ category. That link will bring users to the relevant section on this page. It is hoped that this arrangement will help reduce repetition and make browsing the individual species a more streamlined experience.
Amphibians share an ancient Devonian ancestry with the lobe-finned fish and lungfish, evolving from an early tetrapod group, the Temnospondyli. Later along this lineage the mammals evolved, followed by the reptiles. The surviving amphibian groups are the frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, caecilians, and sirens. Owing to severe degradation of moist and aqueous habitats around the world a large number of amphibian species are endangered, 13% of known species (1393 species), with a further 24% (1567 species) seriously depleted. There are 8 species of amphibian in the UK and Crown Dependencies; Common Toad, Natterjack Toad (coastal sites only), Common Frog, Pool Frog (East Anglia and the Fens), Agile Frog (Jersey only), Smooth Newt, Palmate Newt, and Great Crested Newt. The Natterjack Toad and Great Crested Newt are legally protected.
The amphibian life cycle begins as an egg in jelly, laid in water, which then hatches into a tadpole. It has gills to breathe underwater, and a tail to propel itself. Then legs grow, and the tail and gills are lost as lungs develop to breathe in the atmosphere. It leaves the water when the legs are fully grown.
Amphibians are unable to control their body temperature internally, so their degree of activity depends on the environmental temperature. During the Winter they are largely dormant, and seek refuge underground or in sheltered places, to emerge in Spring according to the prevailing weather conditions and latitude. In Sussex Common Frogs appear from January, while Common Toads and the newts appear from March, all making for ponds to breed.
British Amphibian Identification and Location
Before one can discover amphibians one must get to know their environment, and this means spending time in their habitat to get to know its characteristics; its sights, sounds, odours, tastes, and textures, and how these change with the weather and seasons, as well as with human interference. Visit the habitat in all weathers and at all times of the year, and look, listen, smell, taste, and touch all parts of it (tasting only what is safe). When you know the habitat intimately, you will be able to detect when it has changed because of the presence of an amphibian.
If you know the amphibian’s lifestyle, especially when it is likely to be active (hunting, seeking a mate, courtship, escaping from a predator, etc.), you will sense its presence and why it is there. Particularly, you must look, listen and smell, and respond accordingly. Be silent, but if this is impossible then keep stopping to discern if what you have detected is reacting to your movement and its ceasing. Once you know what sensory differences are expected from a certain amphibian’s presence you will begin to find it easier to track it down.
Wind, rain, sunlight, snow, ice, and other meteorological elements all affect a habitat, and you must know how and with what consequences. Similarly, you must judge how wildlife will react to weather if you want to find it. Finding an amphibian that will be sheltering in water or damp cover is very difficult because it knows the nooks and crannies better than you do. ‘Think animal’ all the time. Whatever the weather, amphibians still have to feed, and by thinking animal you can work out how and possibly where.
An amphibian’s life starts in water, but adult amphibians spend most of their time on land, generally leaving few traces. They swallow their prey whole so don’t leave food remains. In order to keep moist they frequent wet or shady conditions, hiding under stones, logs or in crevices. Frogs and toads will bed down in the mud at the bottom of a pond; newts will go under vegetation or logs. Warm evenings after rain are a good time to observe amphibians, as they are most active after the heat of the day is over. At night a torch will pick them out at pond edges. Frogs have fully webbed hind feet so are good swimmers. All newt species lay eggs singly, frogs and toads in clumps.
Arachnids, of which spiders are the most numerous but just one of many types, are silk-producing joint-legged invertebrates whose ancestors evolved during the Devonian. Invertebrates with jointed limbs are called arthropods. One of these ancestral groups, the Chelicerata, shared a common ancestor with the Antennulata, a group that gave rise to the Crustacea, the group to which insects are now known to belong. Insects are therefore six-legged crustaceans! Arachnids, which evolved along a different lineage, are a very diverse group, including spiders, mites and ticks, whip spiders, scorpions, whip scorpions, harvestmen, and many other types.
Most arachnids have a segmented body divided into two regions, of which the front part has four pairs of legs but no wings or antenna. This distinguishes them clearly from insects, which have three segments to the body and three pairs of legs. The front part (head and thorax) of the arachnid body has pincers, mouth parts, and legs, the rear part (abdomen) has sensory, genital, and silk-spinning appendages. The fine hairs that cover the body give arachnids their sense of touch. They are largely terrestrial and solitary, coming together just for mating. Most are carnivorous, feeding off the body fluids of their prey, or covering it with their own internally produced digestive fluids to convert the prey to liquid form, which is then sucked up.
Unlike insects, young spiders hatch directly from the eggs, looking like miniature versions of the adults. They grow and reach maturity through a series of moults, and most will live about a year or a little longer. The most familiar spider’s web in the British countryside is the orb web, but there are many other designs, some geometric to a degree, others with a loose or random framework of criss-cross silk threads.
There is much folklore associated with spiders. If a spider lands on you then you will come into money, particularly if you are industrious like the spider. Little red spiders are called ‘money spiders’. The use of spiders to cure ague and whooping cough is too unpleasant to record here. Cobwebs wrapped around wounds stop bleeding and inhibit infection, a practice that has medical support. For the usefulness of its webs it was deemed unlucky to kill spiders, or to deliberately damage their webs.
The earliest feathered dinosaur fossils date from the early Cretaceous, but the ancestry of birds goes further back to Jurassic theropod dinosaurs, which shared a common ancestor with the crocodilians. Well known theropod groups include the tyrannosaurs, allosaurs, and other carnivores. Of surviving bird groups, the most ancient are the ratites (ostriches, rheas, tinamous, moas, kiwis, cassowaries, and emus), followed in evolutionary order by the waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans) and then the land fowl (chickens, turkeys, pheasants and their kin). Heene cemetery’s most ancient bird visitors are the woodpigeons. Strictly, therefore, we ought to refer to birds as dinosaurs, for they are direct descendants. The RSPB would be more accurately restyled as the RSPD. Where known, the conservation status of each bird is given as red, amber, or green, according to its survival potential based on 2016 populations and recent population trends.
Birds are warm-blooded, and have feathers, toothless, beaked jaws, and a strong, lightweight skeleton. They lay hard-shelled eggs. Their hearts have four chambers, and their metabolic rate is high. Although most are adapted for flight, many can also run, jump, swim and dive. Flightless birds retain vestigial wings. Brown, green, and grey are the commonest bird colours, for camouflage.
Butterflies and Moths
The first members of the insect group Lepidoptera, commonly called the Butterflies and Moths, almost certainly evolved from the Trichoptera (Caddisflies), somewhere between 140 and 200 MYA (million years ago). This is supported by genetic comparisons of extant Trichoptera and Lepidoptera. The divergence took place on the Pangaea supercontinent, before it broke apart, and this explains why so many Lepidoptera groups are found on more than one continent. Lepidoptera fossils are known from the Paleocene, a time when flowering plants had already diversified, for the Lepidopteran groups had and still have a strong dependence on them. These fossils greatly resemble living counterparts. All Lepidoptera currently referred to as butterflies share a common ancestor with the Plume Moths (Pterophoridae). Further genetic lines of moths developed, so ‘butterflies’ are not really a distinct group from moths at all, and the words ‘butterfly’ and ‘moth’ have no biological distinction. Biologically speaking all ‘butterflies’ are in fact moths, so the Lepidoptera should simply be referred to as the Moths. All ‘butterflies’ happen to be day-flying, but so are some moths, although the majority of the latter in the British Isles are nocturnal.
Lepidopterans have a 4-stage metamorphosis, egg, larva, pupa, and adult. As adults their life-span is short, from a few days for the Common Blue to ten months or more for the Brimstone and Peacock. They use their senses of smell and taste to locate and identify the correct caterpillar food plant on which to lay their eggs. Depending on the species resident butterflies can overwinter as any of the four metamorphic stages. Those that cannot overwinter will migrate here from the south, breed, and then die or return.
We have fewer than 70 butterflies, but many hundreds of other moths, some day-flying, most nocturnal. Warm, still days are the best days to observe day-flying moths; you can gently tap leaves and flowers to reveal more. The best way to study the nocturnal moths is by using a mercury vapour moth-trap in the summer months.
The word ‘butterfly’ probably comes from the yellow Brimstone. Butterflies in folklore, arising as they do from caterpillars, are symbolic of transformation, renewal, and rebirth. They are also equated with the human soul, either as the souls of the departed, or as the souls of babies yet to be born. The Greek word for butterfly is ‘psyche’. Stillborn babies were thought to turn into butterflies after burial. The butterfly is a popular motif in art and jewellery, and in literature is well known in its caterpillar form, such as in Alice in Wonderland, and in Eric Carle’s children’s book ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’.
If three butterflies are seen together it is an omen of misfortune. If the first butterfly seen in the year is white you will eat white bread for the rest of the year. This was welcomed because white bread used to be the most expensive. Thus, if the first butterfly seen in the year was brown then the unlucky observer would eat common or garden brown bread for the rest of the year. Sadly, it was considered good luck to kill the first butterfly seen in the year. A butterfly seen flying at night is a death omen.
Of surviving life forms, the Bacteria are the most ancient, followed by the Archaea. These two groups, the Prokaryotes, lack a membrane-bound nucleus in their cells. From this lineage evolved the Eukaryotes, possessing a nucleus in their cells, two types of which evolved, the Unikonta, with a single appendage (flagellum) for propulsion, and the Bikonta, with two appendages (flagella). The Unikonta gave rise to first the Fungi, then the Animals. The Bikonta evolved into the Algae and Plants. The Fungi therefore share a common ancestor with the Animals, whereas neither is closely related to plants. For this reason, vegans and vegetarians should not eat mushrooms or other fungi, nor eat bread or consume alcoholic drinks because they are prepared using yeast, a fungus.
Colloquially, the word ‘mushroom’ is used for edible species and ‘toadstool’ for poisonous species, but there is actually no scientific distinction between these words. Mycologists, the scientists who study fungi, use the term ‘mushroom’ for all species that have the familiar fruiting bodies that we see above ground. Many fungal groups do not have fruiting bodies, and they have a terminology of their own.
Unlike plants fungi can’t make their own food, but must derive it from plants or animals, living or dead. Fungi called saprophytes serve an important function decomposing and recycling dead matter back into the soil. Symbiotic fungi grow on living organisms, but do not damage them, whereas parasitic fungi do harm their living hosts.
Insects evolved in the Ordovician from a crustacean ancestral lineage as terrestrial invertebrates with six legs (the Hexapoda). This was the time when terrestrial plants first appeared. In the Devonian some insects developed wings and flight, the first animals to do so. An early flying group was the Odonata from the Carboniferous, the damselflies and dragonflies, which have densely-veined wings and long, ten-segmented bodies. They are day-flying carnivores, with an aquatic larval stage, so are commonly seen flying near water. The carnivorous larvae are called nymphs. Odonata species are short-lived, damselflies surviving for 2-4 weeks, dragonflies for up to 2 months.
Some insect groups in the Cretaceous co-evolved with the flowering plants, and they have had a close association ever since. These groups are the Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, and ants), the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), the Diptera (flies), and the Coleoptera (beetles). The diversity of beetles is astonishing. Of all the known animal species on the planet, one in five is a beetle!
Centipedes, millipedes, and their kin are collectively called myriapods. Centipedes are carnivores, and have one pair of jointed legs per body segment, which never have 100 segments, but vary from 30 to 354. Millipedes have two pairs of jointed legs per body segment, up to 333 in number, and mostly feed on decaying plant material. Myriapods are arthropods and share a common ancestor with the crustacea, that includes insects, which in turn share a common ancestor with the arachnids. Arthropods have an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and paired, jointed appendages. They have highly developed sense organs. 84% of all species on the Earth are arthropods. Crustacea generally have two pairs of appendages (antennules and antennae) in front of the mouth and paired appendages near the mouth that function as jaws. They occupy a wide range of habitats, and many are aquatic, although the largest group in terms of number of species, the insects, are mainly terrestrial. Woodlice are common crustaceans in gardens.
Earthworms are annelids, evolving on a separate lineage to the arthropods, but they share a common ancestor with the molluscs. The Annelida is a large group of segmented worms, also called ring worms. Molluscs are a large, diverse group of invertebrates, which have unsegmented bodies enclosed within calcareous shells, and are represented in gardens mainly by terrestrial gastropods such as snails and slugs. Other molluscs, particularly the bivalves and cephalopods, are aquatic. Representatives of all these groups are found in the cemetery.
Mammals are descended from a late Carboniferous tetrapod group called the Synapsida. They are characterised by middle ear bones, erect limb posture, a bony secondary palate, fur/hair, nourishment of young with milk from mammary glands, and warm-bloodedness. Surviving mammals belong to three major groups, the Monotremes or Egg-laying Mammals (Duck-billed Platypus and Echidnas), and the live-bearing groups, the Marsupials (with pouch and multiple teats for carrying and nourishing the young), and the Placental Mammals (presence of umbilical cord). Currently 679 species of mammal are endangered, with a further 783 species threatened.
There are 78 species of wild mammal in the UK and Crown Dependencies, some of which have been recently introduced without controls, including several species of deer, and some have been reintroduced with government permission. Two foreign escapees, the Coypu and the Musk Rat, have been exterminated, although American Mink remain at large, and only one native species, the St Kilda House Mouse, has become extinct through natural causes, after the St Kilda population was evacuated in 1930. Wild Boar, a former native species, have escaped into woods, including in Sussex; Beaver, Elk, and Reindeer have been reintroduced in a managed way; and European Bison, Lynx, Grey Wolf, and Brown Bear are in controlled areas for study prior to being released when government permission is granted. European Bison are scheduled for release in Blean Woods, Kent, in 2022.
The perceived significance of animal behaviour
Rural folk saw wild animals as their kin and saw parallels between animals’ lives and their own. Animals, like their observers, occupied themselves principally with keeping warm or cool, finding food, courting, reproducing and raising young, and also like their observers, died with little fuss. Those familiar with the habits of wild animals admired their strength and healthy lifestyl and were envious of their superior senses and environmental mastery. This admiration nurtured the belief that by consuming them they could absorb their skills and qualities, and by observation learn their modes of survival. People came to regard the shape, appearance and habits of animals as reflecting their skills and qualities, and their behaviour was closely studied in relation to their environment. The traditional collective wisdom handed down as a result of observation and experience of familiar animals became animal lore proper. Mythical animals are entirely invented whereas the word legend is properly applied to stories about known animals.
Unusual animal behaviour happening coincidentally alongside a human or natural tragedy caused folk to link the two events. This may explain why a gathering of waxwings is said to foretell war. Creatures that flew, or which hibernated, migrated or otherwise disappeared for a time, were thought either to transmogrify or to spend time in another world. Birds, for example, were once thought to be the messengers of the gods. If they tapped on a window that signified misfortune, and if they flew down a chimney, death would follow. As with plants, the breeding cycles and activities of animals, and arrival and departure of migrants, depends on latitude and longitude as does the climate, so there may be geographical differences in the applicability of calendrical lore.
The doctrine of signatures applied to animals
The doctrine of signatures linked animal habits to symptoms, and shape and function to effect. Therefore, eating extracts of tusk or horn imparted strength, just as eating a penis improved sexual potency. A foot from the lively rabbit protected against rheumatism, and a horse’s tooth tied round a baby’s neck alleviated teething pain and produced strong teeth. Extracts from the densely coated badger cured baldness, and, incidentally, coughs, rheumatism, shortness of breath, and sprains, and from the bones of the athletic horse came preparations to loosen stiff joints and sinews. As snakes have no eyelids their flesh improved sight, but the heart or gall of a keen-sighted eagle, owl or raven would do just as well. What better way to stimulate blood flow than to use insect exudates as counter-irritants, and to cure earache than by inserting pulverised earwig. The flesh of a dove, a docile bird, draws out virulent fever, and as whooping is similar to an owl’s cry then owl broth will cure whooping cough. The coarsely honking sound of the goose meant that its fat when rubbed on the chest cured bronchial complaints. Unlike the toad the frog has a smooth skin, so it is placed on warts to shrivel them. The view that the effects of disease could be alleviated by bleeding is very ancient, and the medicinal leech (Hirudo medicinalis) was used into the 20th Century. Collectors were paid to wade into ponds so that the leeches attached to their legs.
British Mammal Identification and Location
Before one can discover mammals one must get to know their environment, which means spending time in their habitat to get to know its characteristics; its sights, sounds, odours, tastes, and textures, and how these change with the weather and seasons, as well as with human interference. Visit the habitat in all weathers and at all times of the year, and look, listen, smell, taste, and touch all parts of it (tasting only what is safe). When you know the habitat intimately, you will be able to detect when it has changed because of the presence of a mammal.
If you know the mammal’s lifestyle, especially when it is likely to be active (hunting, seeking a mate, courtship, caring for young, escaping from a predator, etc.), you will sense its presence and why it is there. Particularly, you must look, listen and smell, and respond accordingly. Be silent, but if this is impossible then keep stopping to discern if what you have detected is reacting to your movement and its ceasing. Once you know what sensory differences are expected from a certain mammal’s presence you will begin to find it easier to track it down.
Wind, rain, sunlight, snow, ice, and other meteorological elements all affect a habitat, and you must know how and with what consequences. Similarly, you must judge how wildlife will react to weather if you want to find it. Finding a mammal that will be sheltering is very difficult because it knows the nooks and crannies better than you do. ‘Think animal’ all the time. For example, if there has been much rainfall then burrowing mammals, or mammals resting or hibernating, may come up because of the rising water table. In high wind, don’t expect to see many small birds flying, but look for them in cover, and whatever is hunting them. Whatever the weather, mammals still have to feed, and by thinking animal you can work out how and possibly where.
All mammal activity leaves traces. Some are static, like burrows, nests, droppings, remains of a kill, regurgitated pellets, rutting marks, snagged fur, footprints, chewed nut shells and other feeding debris, broken branches after passing through, and forms or flattened areas for resting. Others are dynamic, such as ripples and splashes, rustling of twigs and leaves, and vibration of the ground. Depending on the trace, it will variously have sights, sounds, odours, tastes or textures that are characteristic. Some are so obvious, such as body odour or flatulence of a large mammal, or foul-smelling droppings, or a series of clear footprints, that they are good enough for identification. Others may be indicative of a genus or family rather than of a species. The fresher the trace and the better your scent-mapping of the habitat, the more useful each trace becomes.
The most valuable traces for identification are tracks, droppings, burrows and nests, and feeding remains. Many tracks will be those of farm, domestic or feral animals, so you must, for example, be able to distinguish between those of a dog and of a fox. Tracks made in fresh snow or in shallow mud after rain are the most reliable, but they all weather quickly. The shape and odour of droppings is helpful, as are protruding undigested remains of plants or animal parts. The droppings of domestic dogs and cats are confusingly variable because they are usually not on a natural diet. Look in and around burrows and nests for scraps of food, footprints, pieces of fur, excavated earth, and droppings. Food remains such as a killed bird, gnawed nutshell, or stripped fir cone are useful, but often additional evidence is needed for identification.
Some mammals hibernate in Winter, whereas some go into a dormant state and go out occasionally to eat and drink. Hedgehogs increase their body weight in Autumn and hibernate in a nest. Bats roost in a cool, humid place and only venture out now and again to feed. Dormice hibernate in an underground nest.
Nucleic multicellular photosynthetic organisms lived in freshwater communities on land as long ago as a thousand million years, and their terrestrial descendants are known from the late Pre-Cambrian 850 million years ago. Embryophyte land plants are known from the mid Ordovician, and land plant structures such as roots and leaves are recognisable in mid Devonian fossils. Seeds seem to have evolved by the late Devonian. The Embryophytes are green land plants that form the bulk of the Earth’s vegetation. They have specialised reproductive organs and nurture the young embryo sporophyte. Most obtain their energy by photosynthesis, using sunlight to synthesise food from Carbon Dioxide and Water.
The earliest known plant group is the Archaeplastida, which were autotrophic. Listing just the surviving descendants, which evolved in turn, we have the Red Algae, the Chlorophyte Green Algae, the Charophyte Green Algae, and then the Embryophyta or land plants. The earliest embryophytes were the Liverworts, followed by the Hornworts, and the Mosses. Then we have the Vascular Plants, the Lycophytes and Ferns, followed by the Spermatophytes or seed plants, the Gnetophytes, Conifers, Ginkgos, and Cycads, and finally the Magnoliophyta (Angiosperms) or flowering plants.
Nucleic multicellular photosynthetic organisms lived in freshwater communities on land as long ago as a thousand million years, and their terrestrial descendants are known from the late PreCambrian 850 million years ago. Embryophyte land plants are known from the mid Ordovician, and land plant structures such as roots and leaves are recognisable in mid Devonian fossils. Seeds seem to have evolved by the late Devonian.
The earliest known plant group is the Archaeplastida, which were autotrophic. Listing just the surviving descendants, which evolved in turn, we have the Red Algae, the Chlorophyte Green Algae, the Charophyte Green Algae, and then the Embryophyta or land plants. The earliest embryophytes were the Liverworts, followed by the Hornworts, and the Mosses. Then we have the Vascular Plants, the Lycophytes and Ferns, followed by the Spermatophytes or seed plants, of which the non-flowering types are the Gnetophytes, Conifers, Ginkgos, and Cycads. The last four are also referred to as Gymnosperms, because their seeds are unprotected by an ovary or fruit. The seeds develop either on the surface of scales or leaves, which are often modified to form cones, or are solitary as in the yew and ginkgo. This completes the evolutionary order of the non-flowering plants. The final group to evolve was the Magnoliophyta (Angiosperms) or flowering plants, whose seeds and ovules are enclosed within an ovary or fruit, and which are on a separate list.
Reptiles and mammals share a common Carboniferous ancestor that laid eggs on land, as opposed to fishes and amphibians that laid their eggs in water. Reptile, bird, and mammal eggs have an amnion, a membrane that surrounds and protects the embryo. Although boas and pythons give birth to live young, other reptiles lay eggs, whose incubation temperature determines whether hatchlings are male or female. The hatchlings have no maternal assistance, using an egg tooth to break out of the eggshell. The earliest of modern reptiles to evolve were the turtles, tortoises, and terrapins, followed by the saurians, which gave rise to two lineages. One gave us the crocodilians, and the dinosaurs, whose descendants are the birds, and the other gave rise to the tuataras and to the skinks, lizards, snakes, iguanas, and chameleons. Currently there are about 8700 reptile species, of which 35% (just over 3000 species) are threatened, with 423 of these endangered.
Unlike amphibians, reptiles do not undergo metamorphosis and are air-breathing throughout their lives. They have a special skin made up of scales or bony plates, or both, which is shed regularly. Reptiles are cold-blooded, so their metabolic rate is dependent on the environmental temperature. They do not maintain a constant internal body temperature like birds and mammals. As they have no sweat glands or the ability to pant they cannot cool down on a very hot day other than by moving out of the sun. In very cold weather they become inactive.
There are 7 species of reptile in the UK; the Pond Terrapin (East Anglia only), Common Lizard, Sand Lizard (heathland only, rare), Adder, Barred Grass Snake, Smooth Snake (heathland only, rare), and Slow Worm. With the exception of the Pond Terrapin (a British species for 5000 years, according to the fossil record, and not a Pet Shop escapee) all are found in Sussex.
British Reptile Indentification and Location
Before one can discover reptiles one must get to know their environment, and this means spending time in their habitat to get to know its characteristics; its sights, sounds, odours, tastes, and textures, and how these change with the weather and seasons, as well as with human interference. Visit the habitat in all weathers and at all times of the year, and look, listen, smell, taste, and touch all parts of it (tasting only what is safe). When you know the habitat intimately, you will be able to detect when it has changed because of the presence of a reptile.
If you know the reptile’s lifestyle, especially when it is likely to be active (hunting, seeking a mate, courtship, escaping from a predator, etc.), you will sense its presence and why it is there. Particularly, you must look, listen and smell, and respond accordingly. Be silent, but if this is impossible then keep stopping to discern if what you have detected is reacting to your movement and its ceasing. Once you know what sensory differences are expected from a certain reptile’s presence you will begin to find it easier to track it down.
Wind, rain, sunlight, snow, ice, and other meteorological elements all affect a habitat, and you must know how and with what consequences. Similarly, you must judge how wildlife will react to weather if you want to find it. Finding a reptile that will be sheltering is very difficult because it knows the nooks and crannies better than you do. ‘Think animal’ all the time. Whatever the weather, reptiles still have to feed, and by thinking animal you can work out how and possibly where.
Reptiles generally leave few traces. They swallow their prey whole so don’t leave food remains. Being cold-blooded, reptiles are most active in warm conditions, and may be seen basking in the sun. However, in long hot, dry spells they avoid the heat and lay dormant under shade. They are generally dormant over Winter, slowing down their metabolism to conserve energy, usually hiding under vegetation. In Spring lizards are usually the earliest to become active, followed later by the snakes. Sunshine after rain is a good time to observe them; listen for rustles in vegetation as they move. All snakes and lizards slough their skin at least once a year, young ones more often, and the sloughed skin is most commonly found in the Summer. Lizards and Slowworms can lose their tails without harm, for example, when attacked, but only lizards routinely regrow them.