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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

20 March, 2014

Slow-worm? It is neither slow or a worm

As I have said before in my nature notes common English names can be very misleading. The slow-worm (Anguis fragilis) is obviously not a worm at all, it is not even a snake, it is a lizard. Despite its lack of legs it is a lizard and it can move very quickly when it needs to. It lives much of the time under ground and so legs would just get in the way and it can move much more effectively in its environment without them. It is because they live in the soil they are
called worms of course.
The slow-worm has smooth scales and is usually brown or grey in colour. Indeed, in sunshine they can look an amazing combination of bronze and copper. 
The slow-worm is quite common but, perhaps, not often seen. Your best chance is to have a compost heap in your garden and then watch out for young slow-worms emerging. The adult slow-worm emerges from hibernation in March and can spend a lot of time basking in the spring sunshine, usually in a well hidden spot in herbage, to gain warmth as they, like all reptiles, are cold blooded and need the sun's rays to enable them to become active. They mate in May and the young are born in late August or even early September. 
Slow-worms are a gardener's friend as they eat large numbers of slugs and snails. They have been known, in captivity, to eat small mice so this is quite a fearsome predator in the wild.  In my opinion the slow-worm is a stunningly beautiful reptile and they are certainly welcome in our garden.

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