This week, I lifted up a sheet of roofing material I have lying in a sunny part of the garden and found these two snuggling up to each other.
On top is the bronzed beauty that is the Slow-worm. Beneath, with the tell-tale double-yellow marking on the back of the head, is a young Grass Snake. Who would have thought that they make happy bedfellows?!
I'm now five years into trying to make my garden an ideal home for both these species. In my first year here, I saw not a single Slow-worm, and it took until the first July to see a Grass Snake, and that one was belting through the garden on a mission to somewhere else.
But by creating compost heaps, stick piles, meadows and ponds, things are now going rather well. My peak count this month has been 14 Slow-worms and five Grass Snakes.
My secret device that allows me to see them are these, my roofing squares which allow them to crawl underneath where they are safe from birds and cats. I have five around the garden, and I lift them gently up once a week on a Sunday morning when the day is warming up to monitor what is underneath. This is where they soak up the warmth to get their bodies going. If I lift them too early in the day, they haven't yet arrived for their daily heat treatment; too late and they have absorbed the energy they need and are off hunting in the undergrowth.
If it wasn't for the roofing sheets, I might never see a Slow-worm in the garden, they are so secretive.
However, the Grass Snakes are much more obliging because they love to follow up a spell under the sunbed with a dip in the pond. There, the adult snakes go a-frogging and the younger ones go after Smooth Newts. It feels an incredible privilege to see them in their element, for the speed with which they can whip through the water and the ease with which they dive down into the depths is incredible to watch.
They tend to sit with just their head above the surface, testing the air with their forked tongue, still but for the gentle beating of their heart. Then they're off, scooting across the water surface and then plunging under the surface.
And the only way to really show you that is to take some video footage of them in action, and I got my chance one lunchtime this week. Here, then, is my 1’20” little video of this supreme swimmer in action.
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