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The Slow- Worm.

This is two articles about Slow-Worms. found at different times, and were different colours ?

 

 

About three weeks ago, as I was walking up to Loch Fad on the west side of the Kirk Dam, about two hundred metres from the Woodend/ Dhu Loch junction, I came across a lovely specimen of a Slow Worm. (see photo). This one was a fully grown adult of about 50cm( 20ins). It was as you can see on the road, which is not a place for it to be. It stayed very still and this enabled me to get a photo or two. Then I lifted it up and put it over the fence into Chapelton Wood. I have never seen one this far down from the hills behind Barmore wood where my pals and I used to look for them. We would walk along the cast iron pipes that takes the water to the Dhu Loch, Turning over stones to find them. This area is a favourite place for them as there is plenty of their favourite food, Ants. We never harmed them, it was just good fun finding them, and the bigger the better.They are not dangerous, although they may look like snakes they are in fact Legless Lizards and can only give you a small nip, which can give you a fright the first time that you get caught out.


One day I took one home to let my family see one. It was about half the size of todays one. My parents were impressed with it, as was my brother, But my sister-in-law was unsure. I told her it was a rubber snake and if you touched it, it would wriggle away. I touched it and sure enough it moved a few feet then stopped. I did this a few times to let her see that it was indeed made of rubber, and she then touched it herself and it performed perfectly. After she had done this a few times she had complete confidence in herself, but the slow worm had had enough, it wriggled away without her touching it at all. Well she let out one unearthly scream and flew out the door, not returning until I had taken back to the place that I had found it. She did not talk to me for weeks afterwards. (which in itself was not a bad thing).

The colour of these slow worms are a shiny golden-buff colour. Very widespread in Britain but absent from Ireland. They can be found in hedgerows,grasslands, heaths and woodland borders. They hibernate from October to March . And the best time to see them is on a hot sunny day when they can be seen on top of rocks absorbing the heat as they are very lethargic until they are warmed up.

 

(In 2002, I first wrote about the Slow Worm,

 

Now at 2005
Well I have seen many dozens of them since I first started to roam over the hills in my pre-teenage years, and all have been the same colour, a bronze, or greenish-brownish colour, so I thought that they were all the same until now, when one appeared to be different, so here I am writing again, so I hope that you won't mind a wee bit repetition as my story unfolds.)

I got a phone call on the 12th of May from Bill, a friend from Kilchattan Bay, who,'s next door neighbour had a Snake in her garden. After being informed from Bill about the length-breadth of it I decided
that it was a Slow Worm, but then he told me what colour it was, a Silvery Grey ! That put a big dent in my theory as to what it was then, so , after asking Bill to try and prevent it from escaping, I headed out to the Bay. When I got there, Bill was still on guard, but no one had been wiling to lift it up and put it into a box that was nearby.
One look, and I lifted it up straight away, as it was indeed a Slow Worm, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
I put it into the box to get a photo of it, than held it in my hand as you can see to get some close-up-shots. Well I have never ever seen one this colour, I was absolutely mesmerised with it. I have had books on British Wildlife for many years but only one has the Slow Worm in it, and it gave the colour of them all, as Greenish- Brown, so I did not at that time look any further for more info, and accepted that, that was all there was to it, they were all the same, but after seeing this one I consulted other books , and came up with up-to-date info.
They can indeed be grey, and with blue spots on them as well, but in finding out what sex it was, I had no luck at all. Info on one book, says it is a female, but in another, it was a male, but it doe's not matter to me what it is. It is different than any other that I have seen, and that made my day.


But the story doe's not end there.
I sent the photo's of it to a Rothesay woman, Jannete, who has lived down South for many years, and got an immediate response.. When she was in another part of England years ago, she came across a snake in her garden, and being told it was a young Adder, she kept well clear of it as Adders were common where she was staying, then she got my photo's and there in front of her was what she had seen many years before, a Slow Worm, and she was delighted that at last she now know's what she had seen years ago,was not an Adder, but A Slow Worm, that, like the one on Bute was that bit different.
To find a Slow Worm in a garden in the vicinity of the Stone Pier I could not understand why it should be there ,as they like the sun, and can be seen basking in it over the hills behind Loch Fad, not in an area that only gets the sun in the early morning , and late afternoon, so I thought that it was grey because it was a bit peely-wally due to coming out of hibernation and had not had time to get warmed up due to being at the wrong resort. Any time that I have seen them they are always in the vicinity of ants, so I thought that was their main diet, but it seems that they are gardeners best friend as they eat slugs and other insects.. Many a gardener has put the spade through them thinking them as snakes, and then had problems getting rid of slugs, and them having just killed the answer to their problems, so if you find a bronze or a grey one let them get on with what they do best and don't worry about getting bitten.
So there you have it , A Grey Slow Worm on Bute, A first for me but I hope it will not be the last.

These were first published in the Buteman

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