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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Wed 19th March 2014 - Castle Copse, East Cowes.

Mark's Photos.

Carrie's Photos.

It was off to the "green oasis" of Castle Copse for our GG session this week. Right in the middle of all the East Cowes new development is this tranquil area for the locals and wildlife to appreciate. It is was almost a whole year since we worked at this venue and the first thing that we all noticed was the improved fencing on the roadside approach. The high wooden fence has now been replaced with a much lower version, allowing you to see the woodland beyond, enticing you in.
Our main tasks for this visit were to plant a new hedge just behind the wooden fence, planting Clematis (clematis vitalba  - also known as Traveller's Joy or Old Man's Beard) at various places in the woods and clearing the trees that had been felled by contractors. The material from the felled trees were used to build dead hedges around the site which will help to segment the various areas whist providing cover for birds and animals. With plenty of GGmers in attendance and the bonus of dry weather, excellent progress was made with the jobs. We look forward to returning at a later date to see how the hedging matures, perhaps we could do a hedge laying job on it one day?

Carrie's Nature Lesson.

This beautiful slow worm was found by Martin when working at Castle Copse this week.  These are small lizards which have lost their limbs completely, and are often mistaken for snakes.  They typically grow to between 40 and 50 cm, with the males being slightly smaller than the females, with their tails making up about half their total length, and are distinguished from snakes by many features such as eyelids, small ear openings, neither of which snakes have, and their tongues are notched in the centre rather than completely forked like a snake's.

They are typically grey-brown with males displaying electric blue spots, particularly in the mating season, while females have a coppery sheen and two lateral black stripes, producing live young which are about 1.6” long and generally having golden stripes.  Their grooved teeth allow them to grab and swallow whole their soft invertebrate prey, such as slugs, hairless caterpillars and earthworms, but usually avoid snails unless they are very young when the shell can be easily broken.  Their range is across most of Europe and into parts of Asia, but are restricted to temperate and humid habitats.  Their hibernation period is from October to February/March either alone or with other slow worms, and they are a protected species in the United Kingdom.

Many thanks to Carrie and Mark for the photographs and to Carrie for theNature Lesson this week.

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