New habitats for reptiles on the A30
07 Dec 2022
Why did the grass snake cross the road?
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The joke has always posed the question why the chicken crossed the road. But it was no joke for our team working on the A30 upgrade in Cornwall when we had the challenge of safely relocating reptiles from one side of the road to the other.
As part of our earlier survey work on the project we identified several reptile populations – including adders, grass snakes, slow worms and common lizards – occupying land at Higher Ennis, on the path of the new route near Carland Cross.
To ensure the preservation of the native species, our team of environment consultants undertook a painstaking operation to safely gather up the reptiles. To do this, we placed squares of roofing felt at regular intervals. Warmer than the surrounding vegetation, the felt attracts reptile species and ecologists can then hand-catch any reptiles sheltering underneath, before relocating them.
We then cut the heathland into turfs and transferred it across the road to a location close to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at Newlyn Downs. The SSSI offers an excellent habitat for the reptiles to thrive. With permission from Natural England, we’ve built two reptile ‘houses’ within the SSSI, making the Newlyn Downs habitat even better for reptiles. Our ecologists are already seeing success, with the slow worms, lizards and snakes now settling nicely into their new home in time for the winter and colder weather.
The heathland contains precious flora species, including ling heather, dwarf gorse, and bristle bent grass that provide a vital habitat for invertebrates and ground nesting birds, such as the meadow pipit to bees. We also recorded around 370 species of invertebrate within the heathland, among them seven nationally scarce species, such as the leaf and rove beetles, theridiid spider, leaf weevil, dolichopodid fly and leafhopper.
This work will maintain populations of protected species in the area and help to enhance biodiversity once our construction work is completed.