Thursday, 7 May 2009

Legless but not a problem

It is always said that reptiles often lurk under bits of corrugated metal and metal sheets that have be left on the ground. Over the years I've lifted up lots of suitable discarded bits of metal but have never been lucky in finding anything, that is until this afternoon.

Slow worm (Anguis fragilis)

As I walked along one of the paths leading to the cliffs I saw an old metal notice on the ground. As usual I picked it up and there was one of the largest, most beautiful Slow Worms underneath. Being a cold blooded animal it benefits from the warmth it gets from the suns rays on the metal.

Slow worms look superficially like snakes, but are actually legless lizards. One way to identify them is that unlike snakes, lizards (and therefore slow worms) have eyelids. Slow-worms are protected by law in Great Britain against being killed, injured or sold or traded in any way.

I didn't check whether this a male or female, but judging by the paleness of the flanks and lack of a thin dark line running down the back it is a male. Slow Worms are probably the most commonly encountered reptiles in the country and are often found in compost heaps, where they find both warmth and a good source of food. They are a friend to the gardener feeding on slow moving prey such as small slugs.

Both sexes, but more commonly males, sometimes have blue spots on the body. This blue colouration is more common in coastal or island populations, and may vary over the year. It does not usually occur until an animal is at least three years old.

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