I was next to the Sirhowy river near Blackwood looking for signs of otters after previously finding some otter poo, or 'spraint'. Now poo is not usually something to get excited by but otter poo is pretty special, bearing in mind that the valleys aren't especially known for its otters.
While I was peering over the bank I noticed a twig-like object that seemed to be out of place and then realised that it was looking at me! It was in fact a slow worm.
Slow worms are harmless. They look like snakes but are in fact lizards with eyelids but no legs. This one had presumably been attacked by a predator and found itself in the chilly waters of the river. As reptiles are cold-blooded animals and need the sun and warmth to move, it was pretty helpless stuck on a rock, in a river with the evening closing in.
I gently scooped up the smooth skinned fella which seemed in good nick, just a bit cold and immobile. I placed it in my top pocket to warm it up before letting it go next to the compost heap nearby. Compost heaps are a good place for slow worms as there are lots of worms and insects for it to eat while giving it warmth.
Slow worms are quite common and are one of the more widespread of our reptiles in the UK. Although they keep themselves to themselves they are found around humans as they like things like compost heaps and aluminium corrugated iron sheets that warm up in the sun.
With this in mind it seems that quite often cats and other creatures will find them. I spoke to Tony Gent from the Herpetological Conservation Trust about what you should do if you find one.
First off - if the slow worm is fine, leave it alone
If the slow worm is in trouble:
- Place the slow worm somewhere that has suitable cover or refuge as close as possible to where you found it (grassy tussock, group of rocks, bushes etc). This should provide a variety of environments for the slow worm to chose, offering humidity, shelter, food etc.
- Don't put the slow worm in places of excessive heat, for example on the radiator, airing cupboard or glass jar.
- Keep handling to a minimum as the slow worm might 'drop' its tail. This is a defence mechanism where it loses its tail in order to get away from predators.
- If the animal is injured it's best to consult an animal welfare service or to leave nature take its course.
Use the comment form below to drop me a line if you've spotted any slow worms recently.
This week's wildlife web
With webcams being common currency these days I found this top 20 wildlife webcams list interesting. Have you installed a webcam in your garden?
With the school holidays underway, here are a few family events to watch out for over the coming week.
Nature Detectives - Magor Marsh, Newport, 5 August
Introducing dragonflies and damselflies - Ebbw Vale, 7 August
Vole Visit - 'Tails of the Riverbank' - River Marteg, 31 July, 2-4pm
Picnic with a Porpoise - Point Lynas, Anglesey, 5 August
Butterflies at Lavernock Reserve, Penarth, 2 August