Posts tagged ‘Slow worms’

September 15, 2014

This blog is going into hibernation

Hello – and thanks for reading my blog, which has been going since February 2013. I’m now ceasing to add to it, though the existing posts will stay up.

It really started as a gardening blog, but it soon became clear that the popular pages were about wildlife, so I stuck to that subject, and I now feel I have written myself out. The wildlife that appears in the garden tends to be the same each year, and I don’t want to bore you by repeating myself.

I will leave you with one bit of news – we’ve had a grass snake in the garden! He/she appeared under the plastic trays we keep down to attract slow worms: I had a bit of a shock when I lifted the tray to find him. It stayed around for about three weeks, but we haven’t seen it very recently. It is nice to have it, but I hope it doesn’t empty the wildlife out of the pond: hopefully, it will stay up the other end of the garden. Someone I was talking to about it said they knew when their grass snake had arrived in the pond because they saw all the frogs hopping out!

I’ll leave you with one photo I’ve never shown you, from a few years ago when we had a bumper year for slow worms.

DO NOT SCROLL DOWN IF YOU DON’T LIKE PICTURES OF “SNAKES”. Slow worms aren’t snakes – they are legless lizards, but they have much the same effect on those who are scared of snakes.

Goodbye – and happy wildlife gardening!

A tangle of slow worms of very mixed ages.

A tangle of slow worms of very mixed ages.

 

 

 

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May 1, 2013

Wildlife roundup

30 April 2013. Very sorry this is late reaching you, I was convinced I’d sent it out, but I hadn’t. Blame it on the sunshine – it’s gone to my head.

Reading KiwiGav’s blog made me aware of how a list of wildlife can give a really good picture of how Spring is doing, so I thought I’d try a roundup of what I’ve seen in the garden in the last couple of days.

The weather has been really nice – today, particularly, was not just sunny but warm, which was blissful, and has obviously done a lot to bring out the wildlife:

Butterflies: Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and male Brimstone in the garden. Still no Orange Tip, though did see one in Osmington Mills today – a very hard bit of butterfly watching, over a pub lunch in the Smuggler’s pub garden.

Peacock butterfly on aubretia - he's a rather battered specimen with lots of damage to the edges of his wings

Peacock on aubretia – he’s a rather battered specimen if you look at the edge of his wings.

Other insects. Quite a lot, though I am limited in my identification skills, so I’m not sure how many different species.

Small insect on dandelion

Small bee? wasp? hoverfly? on dandelion

Birds, in descending size: Pheasants (3 regular visitors); Crow (one); Jackdaws (several – they nest in a couple of local chimneys and particularly come down when there’s big chunks of food on the ground; Wood Pigeons (several); Collared Doves (2+); Blackbirds (sadly, I think our pair may have abandoned their nest – I don’t think anything fledged and they’ve stopped looking for multiple worms); Starlings (quite a few, though their noise makes them sound as if they are in greater numbers than they are); Chaffinches (lots); Dunnocks (2); House Sparrows (only a few: there were a lot more in winter); Robins (2); Great Tits (I particularly notice one male, who is very handsome with a solid black waistcoat, but I think there is at least one other) and Blue Tits (several: they come and go so fast, they are difficult to count). Also swallows overhead, with occasional buzzards and even a heron the other day.

Crow at foot of bird feeder. Taken from inside the conservatory, as the bird is very wary.

Crow at foot of bird feeder. Taken from inside the conservatory, as the bird is very wary.

Other: Slow worms (three max so far; we found one dead under the tray we leave down for them: it had lost the end of its tail, which was also under the tray and looked very battered generally); Shrew (one for sure – under one of the slow worm trays – could it have had a go at the slow worm that died? I know they are very fierce, but???); Newts (max of 19 so far – a good way to count is with a torch at night); something that looked like a small Crane fly, laying eggs on some not-quite submerged growth in the pond. And – nearly – next door’s dog, which likes to peer under the gate – you could see its tail was wagging today, from the shadow it cast!

Have you done a list of what you see in your garden? Remember there are all sorts of wildlife organisations needing records, so get on the internet and see where you can help.

PS. Three cheers for the European Union and their two-year ban on neonectonoids; three boos for our anti-Environment Secretary Owen Paterson. Bees have a right to thrive on this planet – and we need them.

April 14, 2013

Yippee – the first slow worm of the year

14 April 2012

We’ve had the first slow worm of the year turn up, which gives us a real feeling that Spring is underway. We keep a couple of black plastic gravel trays turned upside down at the foot of one of our hedges, where they get full sun. Slow worms are not worms at all, but legless lizards, and like all reptiles they need to gain heat by basking, so in the morning and at the end of the day they will tend to appear under the plastic trays, which hold the heat well; we also noticed last year that one individual, who looked quite old, tended to stay all day – presumably, like humans, older slow worms feel the cold more. I usually put some dried grass under the trays to help keep the warmth even better, and this seems to be much appreciated. I’m trying dried moss under one of the trays this year, so I’ll let you know how it compares.

Left: plastic tray left upside-down in the sun. Right: first slow worm of 2013 taking advantage of the facilities.

Left: plastic tray left upside-down in the sun. Right: first slow worm of 2013 taking advantage of the facilities.

Slow worms are quite common, but even when they are present in some numbers you may not see them unless you create a habitat for them like the tray we use, or some people use corrugated iron. We very occasionally dig one up when we’re gardening, and we will find them in the compost heaps from time to time, but not frequently. They are totally harmless, and if you pick them up, are dry, not slimy, and they are surprisingly muscular. They eat slugs and snails as well as spiders, earthworms and various insects, and do no damage, so they are the gardener’s friend (and they are protected by law, so it is an offence to harm one).

It’s not just slow worms that appreciate the warmth and safety of the trays. We quite often see signs of a vole or mouse having been using the dried grass – at the moment there are several holes in the grass where something has obviously been coming and going. At one time we even had a vole who would curl up and sleep in the grass during the day – if we were very careful, we could lift the lid and see him snoozing. The feeling of anticipation when we lift the lid never goes away, but never keep it up long – a quick look and we put it down again: it’s their home, we’re the intruders.

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