Early autumn natural sights

Looks like a snake bit it is a low worm.

Early autumn is a great time to visit. There is lots to see. So even when it is a little chilly a walk may well bring sightings of fascinating plants and wild life.

Slow worms


Keep your eyes open on the heathland and at the edges of woodland and woodland rides and you may spot a slow worm. A male was spotted recently on Town Hill. They have also been spotted on Incleborough Hill and the Main Heath. Also two were spotted very recently on Stone Hill.
Although they look like worms or snakes, slow worms are neither. They are lizards. The tell-tale indications that they are lizards are that they have eyelids (snakes don't) and they can shed their tails.
They are smaller than snakes and have smooth golden-grey skin. Females are larger than males and have dark sides and a dark stripe down the back. Males tend to be paler and sometimes have blue spots.

Although slow worms are not poisonous, please do not pick them up. If  caught by their tail they shed it. This is to confuse their predators as the tail still moves, giving the slow worm time to escape. The tail gradually grows back, so it can be an aid to roughly aging a slow worm.

Like other reptiles they hibernate, usually from October to March.


Common lizard

Common lizard
A common lizard
Common lizard

The common lizard is the UK’s most common and widespread reptile. 
Very recently one has been spotted on Volunteers’ Heath, darting off the path into the luxuriant heather.
Common lizards can be seen on heathland, woodland and grassland and are most often seen basking in the sun.

They are varying colours but usually they are brownish-grey and they often have rows of dark spots down their sides and backs.
If the common lizard you spot has a bright orange or yellow underside, it's a male.
There is one unusual feature of the common lizard. Most reptiles lay eggs but the common lizard gives birth to "baby" lizards.

Western Gorse

Western gorse in full flower
Western gorse in full flower
Western gorse in full flower

There are two main types of gorse--common gorse and western gorse. Both are evergreen and have vivid yellow flowers. In truth they are quite difficult to tell apart. But luckily they flower at different times of the year. The gorse which is now in flower is the western gorse. It normally flowers in the late summer and autumn, rarely before July. The common gorse flowers from January to June but can have a few flowers almost any time. There is a large bush of western gorse to the east of the entrance onto the Main Heath. 

Heather


There are two types of heather to be found on the heath areas -bell heather and ling (or common heather).
Ling has a mass of purple flowers in August and September.
Bell heather has dark purple/pink flowers and starts to bloom in June. 
The bell heather and Ling is looking particularly good at present  including the Main Heath, Trude’s Heath and Volunteers Heath.
But how do you tell the difference between the two types?
Both are evergreen. Both have short leaves.
Probably the best way of distinguishing is by the shape of the flowers
Rather surprisingly, bell heather has bell-like flowers which are concentrated in clumps along the stems of the plants. The four petals of the flower are fused together to form a tube and this is what gives it the bell-like appearance. It is usually not as large or dense as ling.
The flowers of the common heather are arranged along the stem. They have distinct petals which gives them a more familiar ‘open flower’ appearance.

Ling (left) and bell heather (right)
Ling and belll heather
Ling (left) and bell heather (right)