Walk on the wild side….   Do you know your neighbours?

22 May
Sometimes it’s surprising who lives next door! You think you know who your neighbours are and you get a big surprise.

One group of animals we don’t see much of here are reptiles although there are two species that live around the village namely the Grass Snake and the Slow Worm – see pictures both of which were taken in the village. Grass Snakes are completely harmless although can emit a horrible smell if they are threatened and play dead. They are reasonably common but are hard to spot even though they often live in rough pasture, along the edges of streams and in gardens. They can get up to a meter long and have a distinctive yellow and black collar.

The Slow Worm is actually a legless lizard and is much more metallic and can live for up to 35 years. Curiously I recently saw a crow scavenging next to a bush on the Cliff and it found a Slow Worm. It promptly flew off with it presumably to feed it’s chicks.

One surprising local resident recently discovered is an Otter. Harriet Alvis (ex Sherston resident) is now the Project Officer at the Bristol and Avon River Trust (BART) and was carrying out some river sampling when she came across what she thought was some Otter spraint or droppings. Following confirmation based on some pictures, some wildlife camera’s were set up along the river a couple of weeks ago by Nic Fisher and Nick Holland.

Within a couple of days the somewhat grainy picture of a female Otter was taken much to everyone’s amazement given (as far as we know) otters hadn’t been seen here for many years. They are very secretive and typically nocturnal it’s not surprising they hadn’t been seen and they may have been here for quite some time given they have been filmed in Malmesbury and one was seen on the road in Easton Gray. Although the Otter hasn’t been seen since, Nick has some great film of a Kingfisher eating a fish – it’s on the village Facebook site as is the film of the Otter.

Also along the river are a few Water Voles (aka Ratty in Wind in the Willows) with their typical holes and lawns. The females graze the area at one side of a hole so it’s much shorter than the surrounding area – hence being called a lawn. Water Voles are getting scarcer and scarcer so we are lucky to have some living here.

All of this excitement has lead to discussions with BART and various people in the village about developing the work that was started with Grove Wood and extending it to other sites and environments. Local landowners and farmers are being very supportive. Things are still at the planning stage about what can be done to improve the river and some of the adjoining water meadows and we aim to have a stand on Boules Day (11th July) to share our plans. If anyone is interested in helping on the stand or afterwards, when the real fun starts, please do let me know.   

P.S. A number of the nest boxes we installed last year are in use by Blue Tits, Bats and something is in one of the Barn Owl boxes. I don’t know what yet as they are protected and you need a special licence to open a Barn Owl box – which I don’t have but I know people who do!!

Grass Snake July 2013

Slow Worm on Sherston Cliff May 2013

Slow Worm on Sherston Cliff May 2013

Otter somewhere near Sherston May 2015

Otter somewhere near Sherston May 2015

Water Vole April 2015

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