On what was not the most promising day in terms of the weather (and yes, we nearly got soaked), we had a remarkable time in terms of the wildlife we were able to see at Carlton Marshes, one of the larger reserves in the care of Suffolk Wildlife Trust.
There were damselflies, dragonflies (just a few), butterflies and calling cuckoos - but it was the rare Fen Raft Spider who stole the show for us, followed by the sudden and unexpected appearance of this Grass Snake. We hardly ever see these reptiles, and to cap it all, David saw a second Grass Snake at Minsmere the following day.
I have certainly never seen a snake swimming in the water before. This one carried on swimming, with its head held high before disappearing a few seconds later - and that was the last we saw of it.
I have included this photo because it shows the beautiful setting of the reserve. Plans are afoot, as I mentioned in my last post, to extend this area of Suffolk Broadland and to improve visitor facilities.
The landscape is flat, broken up with dykes, ditches and watercourses of various kinds. The Netherlands are not far away to the east (though there are roughly 120 km of sea water between the two shores).
This was the view that we saw first, and just as the Fen Raft Spider had been almost like another piece of waterlogged reed, so the Grass Snake could have been another strand of water weed or piece of twig.
Those distinctive yellow and black collar marks stood out sufficiently, however, particularly when the snake was moving on the surface, making its way down the watercourse.
The image above shows just how well camouflaged these snakes can be. As you may have realised, the quick pictures we took have been cropped and enlarged for the sake of detail.
We felt very privileged to have the unexpected chance to watch this snake for a few seconds as it carried on swimming.
Grass Snakes are protected by law under the terms of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. They must not be killed, harmed, injured, sold or traded.