Sir David congratulates images of school’s snake v frog drama

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Local wildlife photographer is praised by Sir David Attenborough after thrilling snake-frog encounter on school Stour Valley Nature Reserve trip

All images: Kate Fry

Kate Fry works at The Epiphany School in Bournemouth. The school takes full advantage of its proximity to the Stour Valley Nature Reserve, and regularly uses the facilities to support and enhance curriculum teaching.
Early in June, Year 5 pupils were studying rivers and the local habitat, and Kate joined the school trip to the reserve to take some photographs for the school’s website. One of the activities was pond dipping, and while a small group were busy with their nets, they spotted a grass snake swimming across the pond. Kate, a keen
wildlife photographer whose work regularly appears in the BV’s Readers’ Photography pages, kept watching, presuming it was hunting for a meal.
She soon noticed a frog appear to rise straight up out of the weeds: ‘I realised that the snake was underneath it, pushing it up out of the water. The snake had one rear frog leg in its jaw. It couldn’t swallow the frog as the leg was jammed in its throat with the other rear leg outside – like putting just one leg in a pair of tight trousers!
The snake and frog continued like this for a few minutes until the snake began to pull the frog back under the water. We all watched while there was a bit of thrashing around, then suddenly the frog jumped across the top of the pond and made a speedy getaway into the reeds and vegetation at the side!

The lucky Year 5s busy pond dipping at Stour Valley Nature Reserve

‘The snake remained in the centre of the pond, head up and flicking its tongue, trying to find the scent of the frog. It eventually swam to the edge of the pond and away into the reeds. I’m fairly sure that the frog, though it got away from the snake, was mortally wounded – there was a fair bit of damage on its side.’
Kate wasn’t alone in her excitement – it wasn’t just the children lucky enough to be present but also the wildlife reserve’s rangers and staff were thrilled to see it. ‘We all felt that we had seen something really
special,’ says Kate. ‘I was so pleased that I was ready and able to capture the moment with my camera.’

Later, the Year 5 pupils wrote to Sir David Attenborough to tell him about their encounter, and enclosed Kate’s photos.
The school was stunned to receive a handwritten reply from Sir David himself:

“Dear Year Five,
Thank you very much for your letter. I am so glad you find my programmes interesting. You are very lucky indeed to have witnessed that encounter between a grass snake and a frog. Like you, I would have been relieved to see the frog escape in the end.
Mrs Fry’s photographs really are remarkable. Please give her my congratulations.
Best wishes to you all.
David Attenborough

‘He seemed genuinely interested,’ says Kate. ‘It felt as though he really enjoyed what the pupils had shared. I was also very proud that he said “Mrs Fry’s photographs really are remarkable”. What an accolade from a man who has witnessed so much in the natural world!
‘The pupils and staff are so grateful to Sir David for taking the time to send a personal reply. Such a gesture is so inspiring for the children. ‘I do enjoy being out in nature and I walk along the Stour with my camera several times a week.
Sometimes I get lucky!’

Screenshot

Britain’s longest snake, grass snakes grow to a metre or more. They are lethal hunters of frogs, toads and other small creatures, and are equally happy on land and in water

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