The slow worm is no slouch

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

AS I was wan­der­ing along a Scot­tish path on my re­cent hol­i­day I was stopped dead in my tracks by a long snake-like beast in front of me. No it wasn’t the Loch Ness Mon­ster.

My im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion was to take pic­tures on the phone, my bet­ter half was ad­vis­ing me to keep away from the crea­ture but I couldn’t re­sist.

I ac­tu­ally knew this wasn’t an adder be­cause it was a fairly plain look­ing rep­tile and adders, our only poi­sonous snake, have a dis­tinc­tive zig-zag pat­tern.

So I put some­thing, quickly, on Face­book, as you do th­ese days, telling ev­ery­one I had seen a grass snake. Oh my mis­take! A del­uge of replies ad­vised me that this was, in fact, a slow worm. This did not dampen my en­thu­si­asm as it was my first sight­ing of slow worm and I was de­lighted.

This lassie was about a foot-and-a-half long, with a goldy-grey skin, and a dark stripe along her back. She was a fe­male, larger than the males which have blue spots.

Right, let’s con­fuse every­body – even though they look like a snake, slow worms are ac­tu­ally lizards without legs. They are given away by their abil­ity to shed their tails and blinks with their eye­lids. Slow worms are also not worms and are not re­ally that slow.

We know there are good numbers of slow worms in North Manch­ester and along rail­way lines in West Lancashire and Mersey­side. They like heath, tus­socky grass­land and wood­land edges. Don’t be sur­prised to see one in your gar­den, hunt­ing for slugs, worms or in­sects.

And it is not un­com­mon for your cat to bring a slow worm in to show you – cats will hunt slow worms and many other crea­tures.

The Scot­tish slow worm ac­cepted that she was go­ing to be filmed in her sun­bathing spot, stick­ing out her tongue to get a whiff of me. Then she got bored and slith­ered off the path into the un­der­growth to wait un­til we had cleared off.

This was very ex­cit­ing on a hol­i­day where I saw a lot of wildlife and Julie and I dis­cussed where we had seen rep­tiles be­fore.

The only oc­ca­sion that came to mind was on the moors above Manch­ester where we spot­ted an adder bask­ing in the sun. So I am still seek­ing my first grass snake en­counter.

Adders are ob­vi­ously the ones to take care around as they are ven­omous but they will not re­ally bother with you if you keep your dis­tance and ob­serve them.

Grass snakes can be found in much wet­ter ar­eas, they do like ponds and will swim when they aren’t sun­bathing or hunt­ing.

On sunny days keep an eye out for snakes and lizards as they en­joy the sun as much as we do.

The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side is ded­i­cated to the pro­tec­tion and pro­mo­tion of the wildlife in Lancashire, seven bor­oughs of Greater Manch­ester and four of Mersey­side, all ly­ing north of the River Mersey. To be­come a mem­ber of the Trust go to the web­site at www. lanc­swt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more in­for­ma­tion about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewil­dlifetrust. org.uk.

Alan pic­tured this slow worm in Scot­land but the lizards are com­mon in some ar­eas of Manch­ester

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