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Monday, December 21, 2009

Wed 2nd Sept 2009 - One Horse Field.

One Horse Field is managed by Gift to Nature, who took it on in 2006 as a neglected piece of waste land rapidly reverting to scrub. After discussions with local people and other wildlife organisations, it was decided to manage the land true to its heritage - in this case a mowed meadow. Meadows are a man-made landscape feature, and require a little help to exist as fantastically diverse habitats. A selection of the invasive scrub was removed to open areas, which had succumbed to a monoculture of scrub land. The maintenance regime involves regular rotational mowing, which ensures the site provides a suitable variety of habitat to support a range of species, including many different butterflies and dragonflies. The site is also used as a relocation centre for displaced Slow Worms. Our task was to rake off the cut grasses and other vegetation to prevent the nutrient build-up within the soils, important to maintain the wild flowers and rich biodiversity. Following some recent mowing, we did find a couple of casualties among the slow worm population, with one dead and two injured, one of whom had lost his tail. We did, however, find one frisky one which we moved to a safe place - see picture below.

Carrie’s Nature Lesson

Slow Worms (Anguis Fragilis) also known as the blindworm, are actually legless lizards, and neither slow nor blind. It is mainly active at night or dusk/dawn, but sometimes basks in the sun during the day. They can be found hiding under rocks, logs, black plastic and paving slabs, and seem to have a preference for old bits of discarded corrugated iron. They hibernate during the cold months of winter, sometimes gathering in groups of thirty or more under compost heaps, logs or tree roots, and the place they do this is known as a hibernaculum. Like lizards, they can shed their tail to escape predators, which eventually re-grows into a short pointed stump; this is known as autotomy. They are approximately 12-20 inches long, with smooth shiny bronze to grey skin, no legs, a small head and eyelids that can blink (snakes do not have eyelids). They are also exothermic (do not create their own body temperature), and rely on basking or warm weather to get their metabolism going.

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