paulwhite9's picture

Snakes

Observed: 6th February 2011 By: paulwhite9paulwhite9’s reputation in Amphibians and Reptiles
Close-up photo.
General photo.
Description:

Found many of the white, deflated balls in a clump when turning over my compost heap. Carried on turning over then found these 4 small snakes - all dead. Are they grass snakes? Was this a nest? Were the 'balls' the eggs suggesting that there were survivors?

Identifications
Species interactions

No interactions present.

Comments

anonymous spotter's picture

Grass snake eggs -

These are indeed grass snake eggs and hatchlings. The grass snake is the only British snake that lays eggs, both the adder and the smooth snake give birth to live young (well, more or less - they are in a thin membrane which quickly breaks in the smooth snake).
The problem in the UK is temperature. Reptile eggs need warmth to hatch, and if laid in a warm spot such as a compost heap, they rely on the weather and the heap staying warm enough for development and hatching. Old farmyard manure heaps are sadly rare nowadays, but are ideal. Not much of a start in life, though!
Vivipary gives the young a better chance in our dodgy climate. The mother can move about to bask, making the most of any sunlight.
These eggs have obviously not developed successfully. Some young have hatched, but were probably too weak to survive. Either it just wasn't warm enough, or they were victims of compression or disturbance of the heap.