We all know that having a nice garden can increase the value of a house. But did you know that gardens can also increase the value of urban habitats for wildlife? Read on to find out why gardens are increasingly important as an urban habitat!
A Winter Refuge
Did you know that cities and towns are warmer than the surrounding countryside? This means that, in winter, lots of species move into these places to shelter from the lovely UK weather. And gardens are a perfect compromise between urban comfort and rural living! If people put out food for the visiting wildlife, gardens become an even better living option!
Slow worms (Anguis fragilis) are living evidence that names and appearances can be deceptive. The first thing anyone will tell you about a slow worm is that it is a lizard, not a snake. They look similar to snakes, because these lizards have evolved in such a way that they no longer need legs – a similar evolutionary process that gave rise to the snakes.
There are some tell-tale signs that these little creatures are lizards. They have eyelids, and blink; snakes, on the other hand, don’t. Slow worms’ tongues are rounded – in contrast to snakes, who have unmistakable forked tongues. Like many other lizards, the slow worm can detach its tail when trying to escape from a predator. And a slow worm’s head is usually the same width as its body – that is, there’s no narrowing behind their heads – whereas snakes have an obvious ‘neck’.
Common toads (Bufo bufo) are noticeably larger than our native frogs. Toads have drier-looking skin than frogs, and their skin is characterised by a rough covering of warts, ridges and bumps. Toads are usually brown or olive-coloured, and their eyes are often golden or copper in colour. Toads’ eggs are usually laid as a string of single eggs, in contrast to frogspawn, which is found in clusters. Frogs have much longer legs than toads. Look at the animal’s movement – if it hops, it’s probably a frog, whereas toads usually ‘walk’!
The grass snake (Natrix natrix) is the UK’s largest snake species, and arguably our most familiar snake – because they have a habit of visiting gardens in search of a meal, or a place to lay their eggs. They’re striking to look at, with attractive colouration and golden eyes. They aren’t to be feared – they’re shy, they don’t bite, and are not venomous. Continue reading “Species Guide: The Grass Snake”
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