Archive for June, 2012

Lesser horseshoe bats across the channel

Friday, June 1st, 2012

The lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) is rare in the British Isles and is confined to Wales, western England and western Ireland. The lesser horseshoe bat has a complex noseleaf which is related to its particular type of echolocation system. It eats a variety of small insects including flies (mainly midges), small moths, caddis flies, lace wings and beetles.

The lesser horseshoe bat is at the northern edge of its range in the UK so it is likely to be vulnerable to changes in climate. The species is listed as Least Concern on the global IUCN Red List of mammals, but the worldwide population is recorded as decreasing. This species is in decline due to a number of factors, including the disturbance or destruction of roosts, changes in agricultural practices (such as the increased use of insecticides, which reduce prey availability) and the loss of suitable foraging habitats.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Cheshire Bat Group recently discovered two lesser horseshoe bats hanging in caves at Beeston Castle, Cheshire. The species was last recorded in Cheshire at the same site back in 1948. Toby also spotted this lesser horseshoe bat hanging in a disused building in France.

For further information on the lesser horseshoe bat see the Bat Conservation Trust website and UES’ bat page.

3 reptiles down, 3 to go

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Our native reptiles include three lizards and three snakes; Sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), Common lizard (Zootoca vivipara), Slow worm (Anguis fragilis), Grass snake (Natrix natrix), Smooth snake (Coronella austriaca), and Adder (Vipera berus).

During a recent visit to Collyweston Great Wood and Eastern Hornstocks SSSI & NNR in Northamptonshire, UES found 3 of our 6 native reptile species; Slow worm, Grass snake and Adder.

Slow worm

Slow worms are often found in gardens and are widespread throughout the British Isles. Slow worms are lizards, though they are often mistaken for snakes. Unlike snakes they have eyelids, a flat forked tongue and can drop their tail to escape from a predator.

Grass snake

Grass snakes are found throughout England andWales. This is the UK’s longest snake, growing to well over a metre in length. Feeding primarily on fish and amphibians, grass snakes can occasionally venture into garden ponds in the summer months, particularly in rural or semi-rural parts of the south.

Grass snakes are non-venomous and are extremely timid, moving off quickly when disturbed. If cornered they can feign death, and if handled frequently, produce a foul-smelling excretion.

Adder

The adder is the most northerly member of the Viper family and is found throughout Britain right up to the north of Scotland. In Scandinavia its range extends into the Arctic Circle. It is not, however, found in Ireland. Adders like open habitats such as heathland, moorland, open woodland and sea cliffs, and rarely stray into gardens.

The adder is the UK’s only venomous snake. However, their secretive nature and camouflaged markings mean they often go unnoticed.

Slow worms, grass snakes and adders are protected by law in Great Britain against being deliberately killed, injured or sold/traded in any way.

For further information see our reptile page or the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC) website.