Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Slowly does it

An interesting surprise in the veg patch this morning; from out of a sodden tangle of old beetroot and weeds, slithered a lethargic slow-worm. I think she was either pregnant, newly awoken from hibernation or sleeping off a good meal. They like slugs and are therefore bosom friends of gardeners such as myself.

These snake lookalikes, which are actually lizards, can move quite fast when they have to, but this one had no thoughts of escape and willingly took part in a prolonged photo session. I particularly wanted to get a picture of its enormous tongue which looks much too big for the creature's mouth. Here it is in both pictures below. The bottom one also has the spout of the granddaughter's watering can for scale (although I appreciate that since you don't know how big the watering can is, this is less helpful than I would wish. But you get the rough idea).

Slow-worms are impressively long-lived; the record is held by one which died in 2009 in Copenhagen Zoo where it had lived for 54 years. I last saw one here in April two years ago when I had a better camera and a slow-worm even more disposed to pose. See below.

Slow-worms are completely harmless and readily identifiable as such by their lack of warning patterns. I've added the picture below because by chance it includes my camera strap whose zig-zags are reminiscent of the thoroughly justified warning pattern on the UK's only poisonous snake, the adder.

Here's the real thing, photographed back in 2008 when I was taking a picture of a Peacock butterfly in the Yorkshire Dales and saw something moving very nearby out of the corner of my eye. It was this, below. As I wrote at the time, the camera shake was due to fear.

The Slow-worm contents itself by and large with dark stripes down either side of its body. Unlike snakes, which shed their entire skin at one go as they grow, it loses scales in a dandruffy way as shown in my final pic.

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