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Slow worms 2020

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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Apr 2020 at 2:24pm
Very warm and sunny here today, slug slayers are out in force, young male under tin. Never appreciated the garden and its inhabitants more than now. 


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Liz Heard View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Liz Heard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Apr 2020 at 2:17am
Amazing Suzy! Wow!
Congrats all.

Like you Chubsta, I’ve been eagerly anticipating their return but only very recently started finding them. Later than usual. When I did, as always, first slow worms of the year felt great, but this time it was also a huge relief.
So far, none whatsoever have shown up in the compost heap - this is normally the most clockwork-reliable and populous slow worm venue in the garden by far.

One winter’s day, I lifted the old pond liner covering the heap and a large rat charged off, then to my further shock and dismay, the head and neck of another popped out of the apex for a momentary recce. A bit like a tank commander caught off guard in a scene from ‘Fury’.
The sinking feeling intensified to dread (plus angry outrage!) upon discovering little entrances strategically dotted about my unsightly and smelly yet cherished, pile of mess. I was convinced deep within there was a ball of dormant, vulnerable and likely very tasty, slow worms.
I immediately applied targeted spading to the most horrific intrusions I could see and soon after deployed various purchases.
Since then I’ve seen the odd POSSIBLE hole once in a while but no sightings of rats or rat field signs.
I don’t know how long the rodents had been in the heap prior to discovery, and then when the Slow worms failed to appear warm day after warm day.....

The whole episode did make me ponder though, when in their hibernacula, do slow worms (and others) ever have any capacity to defend themselves against predation.For example, where conditions allowed, if they detected vibration, movement or disturbance too close for comfort and felt threatened, would they be able to burrow away from it and settle again in a quiet spot elsewhere?
Or are they always lunched out total sitting ducks?


Edited by Liz Heard - 12 Apr 2020 at 2:18am
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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Apr 2020 at 12:22pm
Interesting what you said about the compost heap. I had pretty much assumed that our compost heap was 'slow worm central'. So when it came to clearing it to move it to a new site this autumn and spring, I was pretty surprised that I did not come across a single slow worm in it at all.

Some of the material that was not rotted was moved to a new temporary pallet compost bin, and the tell-tale signs of finger sized holes appeared within days. So they found the new heap quickly, but were ignoring the old one.

Shared your relief this year when I started to see them all over the place this spring. Curious as ever our native herps!

On the odd occasions during field work I've disturbed hibernating animals, they were so torpid any defense seems unlikely.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Suzy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Apr 2020 at 8:14pm
Do you remember some years ago I had a collection of slow worm sections under a cover in my garden? Something had chopped them up (not human) and removed/eaten some parts. Will said it looked like a rat's handy work. I was upset about it, but never had any trouble since. I daresay rats go in compost heaps without us knowing at times. However I seem to have a healthy population of slow worms that live and breed in mine and then hibernate there. Are slow worms tasty to rats? If so I would think my garden would attract rats and deplete my slow worms. 



Edited by Suzy - 12 Apr 2020 at 11:03pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote chubsta Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Apr 2020 at 10:57am
I know rats get a rough time, but in my very limited experience they are not the demons the public seems to think they are. Because I leave food around for hedgehogs all year round, and also throw dog biscuits on the garden for foxes, I get a lot of mice, and would expect to get a lot of rats, but I only ever see the odd one.

For instance, during Winter a rat came into the hedgehog feeder, fed well for a couple of nights popping in and out, and then wasn't seen again. This happened a number of times over the months, a rat would feed and then move on. Of course, they could have been predated but there was plenty of opportunity for them to live in the very immediate area safely which they didn't choose to do.

For some reason, the local rats seem very mobile, and despite food being available every single day they seem keen to move on. I have never found evidence of slow-worm predation in my garden, although no doubt the odd one is taken by a hedgehog, fox or rat.

Having been involved with hedgehogs for a number of years I still cannot work out their mindset when it comes to where they live, you can provide constant food and water, great living conditions etc, and they will still move on elsewhere, I guess the same applies to other animals such as rats, they may have plenty of food that they can safely get to and yet they will still not take full advantage of it and move on. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Apr 2020 at 2:11pm
Originally posted by Suzy Suzy wrote:

Do you remember some years ago I had a collection of slow worm sections under a cover in my garden? Something had chopped them up (not human) and removed/eaten some parts. Will said it looked like a rat's handy work. I was upset about it, but never had any trouble since. I daresay rats go in compost heaps without us knowing at times. However I seem to have a healthy population of slow worms that live and breed in mine and then hibernate there. Are slow worms tasty to rats? If so I would think my garden would attract rats and deplete my slow worms. 


I think rats can get in a bit of a frenzy when there is an abundant food source. Seen for example lots and lots of toads killed in the breeding season and heaped up, that was attributed to rats that were known in the area.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Suzy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Jun 2020 at 9:43pm
Now we are getting cooler, wetter days the slow worms are starting to come back under all the covers. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Liz Heard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Jun 2020 at 11:58am
And i expect you're very happy about it Suzy

Apologies, i meant to reply to your previous post at the time but somehow didn't.
Yes, i remember your interesting "predator cache" post very well and it was one of the things i had in mind when i posted about the rats.
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