The slow worm is no slouch
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