Mammals, herptiles and fish



Aberrant Adder Vipera berus on 28th April 2013. The dorsal black marking is barely visible                          (photograph by Rob Watson).







This comprises the general day-to-day recording of Thorne Moors mammals, herptiles (=reptiles and amphibians) and fish. Such recording began in 1966, and the baseline reference is a split paper published in The Sorby Record in 1979-80. In 2003, work began which led to a desktop review of the herptiles and fish, and this then developed into a review of all vertebrates and vertebrates recording. The completed result was published by the Thorne & Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum as four THMCF Technical Reports, two ornithological and two relevant here. No. 13, The Fish and Herptiles of Thorne Moors, by Martin Limbert, Steve Hiner and B.P. Wainwright, was first published in 2004, with a second edition in 2008. No. 15, The Mammals of Thorne Moors, by Martin Limbert, was first published in 2005, with a second edition also in 2008.

The elements of general recording comprise:

  • Blog page (see ‘Birds’) for managing data input and informing naturalists
  • Online annual reports, primarily summarizing assessed/vetted records as classified lists of species
  • Periodic broader summary of species status and changes
  • Encouraging of personal/student studies
  • Maintenance of cumulative species checklist

The essential elements of general reporting currently comprise:

  • Blog page (see ‘Birds’)
  • Online annual reports
  • Two THMCF Technical Reports for background and comparative information
  • Published papers and notes for specific detail

Further details of General Recording are given in section 2.

Records of all species can be submitted in several ways. In addition to the blog, they can be emailed to Bryan Wainwright (see ‘Birds’) or furnished as paper-based records (Bryan Wainwright, Silverthorn, St Michael’s Drive, Thorne, Doncaster, DN8 5QF). Reptile records are forwarded to Steve Hiner.



1.2.1 The purpose of surveying

Population surveys on the NNR involve full surveys or (preferably replicable) sampling. Both allow the evaluation of actions undertaken to maintain or enhance populations. However, these may have to be calibrated with wider individual species fortune, occasioned for example by climate change. Species monitoring mainly focuses on the occurrence and encouragement of rare or declining species, but may involve other targeted species. Surveys and monitoring may also be tools in assessing broader habitat management or change on the NNR.

1.2.2 Population surveys

All records of the following are currently requested:

  • Adder or Viper
  • Red Deer

Other surveys may be undertaken as deemed necessary.

1.2.3 Species monitoring

A number of species are monitored more generally, including those outlined under 1.2.2.  Detailed records of the species listed under 1.2.3 are therefore especially requested:

    • Target species. The following are currently monitored:
      • Common Frog
      • Common Toad
      • Smooth or Common Newt
      • Common Lizard
      • Adder or Viper
      • Grass or Ringed Snake
    • Other species of concern.  The following are currently monitored:
      • Red Deer
      • European Roe Deer



General recording, surveys and monitoring work have been paralleled by several studies, as cited in section 1.4. These have mostly comprised population- and diet-based studies, some undertaken privately. See also Limbert (2008) for documentation of Harvest Mouse nests, mammalian remains in pellets of presumed Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, and results of ‘Longworth’ trapping. Wider reviews merely including Thorne Moors data are excluded here (but given in Limbert, Hiner & Wainwright 2008, Limbert 2008).



Bull, K. [1997] A Survey of Roe Deer Numbers on Thorne Moors National Nature Reserve. Unpublished report to English Nature.

Davis, J. (2003a) The Distribution and Habitat Preferences of the Water Vole (Arvicola terrestris) on the Humberhead Peatlands. Unpublished MSc. dissertation, University of Leeds.

Davis, J. (2003b) The Distribution and Habitat Preferences of the Water Vole (Arvicola terrestris) on the Humberhead Peatlands. Summary Report for English Nature. Unpublished report by J. Davis to English Nature.

[Hiner, S.] (2008) Appendix 7.2 Adder basking data 2006-08. In: M. Limbert, S. Hiner and B.P. Wainwright, The Fish and Herptiles of Thorne Moors. THMCF Technical Report No. 13.  Second edition.

Holliday, S.T. (1978) Barn Owl Pellets from the Goole Area. The Lapwing 11: [40]-42.

Holliday, S.T. (1980) Variation in Mammal Content of Barn Owl Pellets Collected During Winter and Summer. The Lapwing 12: 19-23.

Howes, C.A. (1975) Notes on a collection of Barn Owl pellets from Thorne Moors. The Lapwing 8: 7-12.

[Howes, C.A.] (2005) Appendix 1: References to Fox scat analysis on Thorne Moors. In: M. Limbert, The Mammals of Thorne Moors. THMCF Technical Report 15: 41-42.
[Second edition pp.46-47].

Lane, T. (2000) A study of bat (Chiroptera) usage of Thorne Moors NNR during 1999/2000 by East Yorkshire Bat Group. Unpublished report by East Yorkshire Bat Group to English Nature.

Lane, T. (2008) A Study of Bat (Chiroptera) usage of Thorne Moors NNR during 1999/2000 by the East Yorkshire Bat Group. Thorne & Hatfield Moors Papers 7: 62-67.

Limbert, M. (1998) The Natural Harvest of Thorne Moors. Thorne & Hatfield Moors Papers 5: 1-68.

Limbert, M. (2013) Electrofishing in 2008. Thorne Moors Vertebrates Report 2012: 40.

Limbert, M. (2014) A review of fish in Swinefleet Warping Drain. Thorne Moors Vertebrates Report 2013: 47–51.

Stentiford, N. (2006) Habitat surveys on a lowland raised mire to assess the impacts of changing management on adder and common lizard populations. MSc. Dissertation, University of Leeds.

Thorpe, S. (1998) Water Vole Survey of Selected Area of Thorne Moors May to October 1998. Unpublished report by Samantha Thorpe to English Nature.

Wall, C. (2007) Effects of deer on epiphytic bryophytes. Thorne Moors Vertebrates Report 2006: 11.




Thorne Moors is a major component of the Humberhead Peatlands NNR. The recording area for Thorne Moors has been deliberately interpreted somewhat loosely. In addition to the moorland itself, it embraces peripheral farmland and drains, plus the whole of the area influenced by Thorne Colliery. This wide definition is largely because vertebrates can be very mobile, using a range of habitats. For vertebrate recording, “Thorne Waste” is defined as the part of Thorne Moors within Thorne parish, but early allusions to “Thorne Waste” are probably synonymous with the whole of Thorne Moors. The remaining parish divisions are Snaith & Cowick Moor, Rawcliffe Moor, Goole Moor and Crowle Moor. Most of Thorne Moors is situated in Yorkshire, the exceptions being Crowle Moor and – since 1993 – the Yorkshire Triangle, which lie in Lincolnshire.



The earliest comment on non-avian vertebrates involves Red Deer c.1532 (Limbert  2008). With this exception, documentation emerges in the eighteenth century. George Stovin wrote in mid-century of Brown Hare and Fox (Jackson 1882, Collier 1905-07, Limbert 1998), and ‘RD’ (1785) referred to Adder. There are then no certain dated records or accounts until the 1820s (Casson 1829, Clarkson 1889). They are more continuous from that decade (Limbert, Hiner & Wainwright 2008, Limbert 2008). Historically, excursions by the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union have provided records. Local societies have also been significant, furnishing useful information. The first such excursion, by the Sheffield Field Naturalists’ Society, took place in 1865. Of special significance was the Goole Scientific Society, whose recorder for vertebrate zoology, Thomas Bunker, furnished useful records in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. It was at the instigation of the Goole society that the YNU made its first visit in 1877. On Thorne Moors, the formation of both these organizations in the 1870s provided a great stimulus to both corporate and ‘freelance’ fieldwork and associated documentation. At a slightly later period, the Doncaster Scientific (later Naturalists’) Society undertook excursions from 1904 (D. Allen unpublished).

Organized modern recording had two independent origins in the 1960s. The first of these was linked with the production of Part One of An Outline Study of the Hatfield Chase (Bunting et al. 1969). This was associated with the first major conservation campaign for Thorne Moors, and was led by the Thorne naturalist William Bunting. It had the active participation of a number of naturalists, including staff from Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery. An account of the campaign was compiled by Skidmore (1970), and the relevant published outcome is outlined by Limbert, Hiner & Wainwright (2008) and Limbert (2008). Separately, in 1966, bird recording was initiated by two members of the Doncaster & District Ornithological Society, R.J. Rhodes and R.D. Mitchell, and they were subsequently joined by a third member, Martin Limbert. Although this was an ornithological study, records of other vertebrates were also kept, and a more formal recording project was initiated by ML in 1970. This was maintained until 1984 (amphibians to 1990). Records of all cold-blooded vertebrates and the scarcer mammals continued to be gathered by ML, though in a less proactive way. The main result of this activity was the publication of ‘The Mammals and Cold-blooded Vertebrates of Thorne Moors’ (Limbert 1979-80). This summarized available historical records, and the more frequent records of 1966-78 for mammals and 1966-79 for the cold-blooded vertebrates. Bibliographies were also given. That paper formed the baseline for the documentation of Thorne Moors mammals, herptiles and fish, though Limbert (1985, 1987) and Limbert & Wainwright (2003) extended the coverage to a limited extent, especially for amphibians. Also relevant are Limbert (1990, 1991, 1998).

Under the auspices of the Nature Conservancy Council, annual Thorne Moors reports were produced by T.J. Wells for 1980-83, primarily featuring birds and other vertebrates. In 1992, the earlier recording project was reactivated, by Steve Hiner (reptiles, mammals) and B.P. Wainwright (amphibians), with the latter also taking on mammals from 1995. Unpublished annual reports were compiled by SH and BPW for NCC/English Nature, and this recording largely merged with the activity by ML. Other annual summaries were also undertaken during the period 1989-2000. The reports by BPW ended in 2003, but SH’s reptile reporting continues to the present. In 2003, ML initiated the annual Thorne Moors Vertebrates Report, including reptile records provided by SH. The first Thorne Moors Vertebrates Report covered 2004, with successors annually to 2008. This was then succeeded by taxonomically devolved online annual reports. However, although the bird reports were produced, the non-avian component amounted only to a mammal report for 2009 by Keith Heywood. As a result, the Thorne Moors Vertebrates Report was reinstated, compiled by ML and BPW, beginning with 2012. This latter includes, as supplements, all non-avian records except for reptiles for 2009-12 (repeating the 2009 mammal report). The Thorne Moors Vertebrates Report 2013 includes reptile records for 2009-13. The Thorne Moors Vertebrates Report is now re-established, primarily as an annual summary, and all such Reports can be freely accessed as downloads. The Reports to that for 2007 were originally issued in paper form. The Reports for 2008 and 2013 were issued simultaneously in paper form and electronically. For all Reports that have only been issued electronically, print-outs are available on request.



The desktop review of all Thorne Moors vertebrates, from both general and more specialist fieldwork as outlined, resulted in two THMCF Technical Reports covering the non-avian classes (Limbert, Hiner & Wainwright 2004, 2008; Limbert 2005, 2008). These catalogue all known records, or give detailed summaries, to 2007 (reptiles to 2008). Fifty-seven species were involved (four square-bracketed as erroneous or unconfirmed). This included those only known as sub-fossils, or as escapes from captivity, etc. Details of 21 species of herptile and fish were given, but two of these, both of them lizards, were square-bracketed as erroneously ascribed to the area. Of the 12 species of fish, one had merely appeared as a ‘vagrant’ (Atlantic Salmon), and five or six were only present due to artificial stocking. Thirty-six mammals were listed, including species domesticated, naturalized or alien in Britain, or represented only by sub-fossil remains. Two were square-bracketed as unconfirmed. The Technical Reports also contain appendices, including ‘A case of Adder-bite in June 1970’, ‘Adder basking data 2006-08’, ‘Temporal distribution of Adder by 1km square 1966-2008’, ‘References to Fox scat analysis on Thorne Moors’, ‘Barn Owl pellet analyses in the Thorne Moors area’ and ‘Reports of Red Deer in the Thorne Moors area 1994-2004’. All appear in at least the relevant 2008 edition except ‘Red Deer’, only included in the 2005 edition. Also in the latter edition of ‘The Mammals of Thorne Moors’, the account of Badger was limited in its detail as a security precaution. However, the full species account was made accessible as a separately paginated unpublished supplement, for restricted distribution. This was also available alongside the similarly limited species account in the 2008 edition. Most recently, the accounts of deer from ‘The Mammals of Thorne Moors’ have been developed into a working paper detailing the deer of Thorne Moors 1959–2014. See Limbert ( 2014) below and under DOWNLOADS. Printed copies of the working paper are also still available.



Limbert (1979-80) has two lists of references, giving 46 citations directly appropriate to Thorne Moors. The ‘non-avian’ THMCF Technical Reports have extensive bibliographies, with a combined total of over 180 relevant entries.



Bunting, W., M.J. D[o]lby, C. Howes & P. Skidmore (1969) An Outline Study of the Hatfield Chase the Central Electricity Generating Board Propose to Foul. [Part One]. Unpublished report.

[Casson, W.] (1829) The History and Antiquities of Thorne, with Some Account of the Drainage of Hatfield Chase. S. Whaley, Thorne.

Clarkson, H. (1889) Memories of Merry Wakefield. Second edition. W.H. Milnes, Wakefield.

Collier, C.V. (1905-07) Stovin’s Manuscript. Transactions of the East Riding Antiquarian Society 12: 23-60; 13: 197-245.

D[————-], R. (1785) A short Account of the ancient and present State of the Morasses or Moors East and North-east of Thorne. The Gentleman’s Magazine 55: 589-90.

Jackson, C. (1882) The Stovin Manuscript. Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Journal 7: 194-238.

Limbert, M. (1979-80) The Mammals and Cold-blooded Vertebrates of Thorne Moors. Parts 1 and 2. The Sorby Record 17: 44-54; 18: 77-82.

Limbert, M. (1985) Some Additional Notes on the Birds and other Vertebrates of Thorne Moors. The Lapwing 16: 5-16.

Limbert, M. (1987) Further Records of Birds and Amphibians from Thorne Moors. The Lapwing 18: 40-43.

Limbert, M. (1991) The Importance of Thorne and Hatfield Moors for Vertebrate Fauna. Thorne & Hatfield Moors Papers 2: 39-45.

Limbert, M. (1998) The Natural Harvest of Thorne Moors. Thorne & Hatfield Moors Papers 5: 1-65.

Limbert, M. (2008) The Mammals of Thorne Moors. THMCF Technical Report No.15.  Second edition.
[First edition 2005].

Limbert, M. (2014) The Deer of Thorne Moors.  A Working Paper. Privately published, [Doncaster]. 

Limbert, M., S. Hiner & B.P. Wainwright  (2008) The Fish and Herptiles of Thorne Moors. THMCF Technical Report No.13. Second edition.
[First edition 2004].

Limbert, M. & B.P. Wainwright (2003) Further records of newts Triturus from Thorne Moors. Thorne & Hatfield Moors Papers 6: 89-90.

Skidmore, P. (1970) Fifty Years later – Another Look at Thorne Waste. The Naturalist 95: 81-87.