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Nature Reserve Opens Its Doors

This Sunday, July 7, High Batts Nature Reserve (HBNR) is holding its annual open day. This delightful reserve is well worth a visit and will be open for you to do so from 10am-4pm. David Beeken from HBNR writes, “There should be plenty for everyone to enjoy including displays, results of small mammal and moth trapping, bird ringing, pond dipping, explanatory walks around the site, beekeepers with their glass-sided hive and activities to interest children. Free refreshments will also be available. The first two weeks of July are often the best times for wild flowers, and there are usually family parties of woodland birds about along with good varieties of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. It remains to be seen if this generally late season is still affecting matters, and of course we hope for good weather on the day and the previous night because the bird-ringing and moth trapping in particular are dependent upon clement conditions”.

Slow Worms

Henry Kay, aged nine, and his Saltergate school mate Austen Glazier, also nine, were walking along Knaresborough’s Abbey Road, with Henry’s mum Nicky, on bed race day when they came across, this snake, well actually it isn’t a snake it’s a legless lizard called a slow worm. The differences between legless lizards and snakes are fairly difficult to determine, the eyes work differently, but I wouldn’t suggest for a minute eyeballing any creature, especially a poisonous adder. Another difference is snakes can do that thing with their mouths that allows them to swallow whole large prey items, so, if you spot a snake-like creature in the wild my advice is keep well away from it. We have six native reptiles in this country. The snakes are adders, grass snakes and smooth snakes, whilst the lizards are sand, common or viviparous and slow worm. There have been introductions and escapes over the years including one - was it a boa constructor? - near Swinsty Reservoir last year. The most successful of these introduced species is probably the wall lizard, although the aesculapian snakes on Regents Canal, escapees from Regent’s Park Zoo, seem to be doing quite well. There is also the green lizard and western green lizard. None of these you are likely to see, in fact locally the most likely snake you will encounter is the adder, found mainly on the moorland. This snake if encountered is unlikely to hurt you as long as you leave it alone, so admire it from afar and both you and the snake will be fine. I don’t think we have any grass snakes locally, although they have been recorded in the past around Hunsingore and, as I have never seen a grass snake, apart from a dead one at Hatfield Moor and live ones in captivity it would be great both to know they still exist locally and even better if I could see one. Lizard-wise we have two species locally, the common lizard, which can be seen mainly on the high ground but turns up in unexpected locations, such as the proposed new TESCO site in Harrogate, and of course the slow worm, which incidentally are neither worms nor slow. The photo shows Henry holding a slow worm. I’m pleased to see that Henry is being very careful and considerate towards the lizard. I’m somewhat reluctant to say this, considering the number of slow worms we handled as kids in Birstwith (are they still there?), but please don’t touch them. One of the few defence mechanisms that slow worms have is an ability to cast their tails when in danger, birds will apparently go for the tail, rather than the lizard, but such a defence is useless against us humans and whilst the tail will grow back it will be a very long time, if at all, before the slow worm can use this defence again. The second photo shows two slow worms and this is rather interesting because it shows what appears to be a darker coloured one which may well be a male slow-worm unusually showing blue spotting, which I have never encountered before, despite living as a child in Birstwith, the slow worm capital of the district (well maybe).

Butterflies

Following on from your wonderful response to my request for information about cuckoos I wonder if you can tell me about any butterflies you have seen, please. On a superb sunny day on Barden Moor whilst out with the guys from Open Country we saw good numbers of green hairstreaks and small copper but apart from whites and a few orange tips I have seen very few butterflies. Very disappointing and extremely worrying.