Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Writing's on the Wall...

I couldn't resist going back for 'seconds' of the Ventnor Wall Lizards yesterday as the sun was out and despite the gale force winds it was warm, if you could find some shelter. The weather for the remainder of the week looks a bit grim so this was my last chance to see them and try to get some video footage. As soon as I arrived I could see that the vegetation cover along the base of the wall had been completely removed! On Friday there had been a low cover of Red Valerian, patches of grass and one or two plants of Alexanders. Today, nothing except a couple of shrubs growing at the top of the wall on the edge of the car park itself! Why as a nation do we have an obsession with being neat and tidy about our hedgerows, wild places (and footpath edges)? Sometimes I think wildlife doesn't stand a chance. A young local couple who passed as I was taking photos of the only Wall Lizard on show today, also stopped in dismay. "Everyone knows this is where you find the Wall Lizards. Why has their cover been removed?" Why indeed? Without corridors of habitat how can anything move around and survive without predation? Sadly though the non-native Wall Lizards aren't really offered any form of legal protection. So, despite their longevity at the site, there's nothing to stop them being wiped out if the area was ever to be developed.

I'm sure they'll survive though, they've been here for 174 years and there's plenty of cover elsewhere but as the wall forms one side of a footpath about 8-10 feet wide, the vegetation can't have been doing any harm at all as it was only 12-18 inches high. At least today's individual was another stunning green-backed male in his finest breeding colours. Let's hope he can find a mate.

Wall Lizard, male. Ventnor, I-O-W: R. Harris
Wall Lizard, male: R. Harris
I did get some video of him too and as promised, here it is - short but sweet:

Editorial update - this is part of the response received from Ventnor's deputy mayor regarding the habitat destruction:

"It isn't possible to fine-tune a weed-control and grass-cutting contract under any realistically-priced regime. It would have to be either 'on' or 'off'. Although my sympathies are with the nature-lovers, I have to accept that if our town looks scruffy and uncared-for, visitors won't come back and that is bad news. My immediate response as a gardener is 'the plants will grow again, and fast, and in a week or two neither the lizards nor the visitors will notice any difference'. These tough native plants re-grow like bandits."

That's how much respect the people in charge have for these magnificent creatures! Obviously not concerned that lizards may well have been killed by the strimmer as they hid in the vegetation or that the cover is required to hide from predators,  feed and breed in. A shameful attitude and our country is all the poorer for it.

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