Thursday, 4 October 2012

Basking in the sun

A typical adult common lizard is 15cm nose to tail. Usually a shade of brown, but variations include yellow, green and black. Patterns of spots and/or stripes down the back are common. Males have a yellow/orange belly with black spots whereas females have a pale, un-spotted belly.

They can be seen in a wide variety of habitats, such as woodlands, hedgerows, embankments, dry-stone walls, heathland and, commons all over the UK. Sometimes newts can be mistaken for lizards as they can be a similar size and colour but a close inspection shows the lizards scaly, rather than smooth, skin; lizards also move away very quickly when disturbed.

They spend most of their time basking in sunny, open spaces close to cover.

Despite being wide-spread, like most native British wildlife, the Common lizard is declining in numbers due to a loss of wild spaces, with the building of more houses. However, the species is protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and isn’t listed as endangered yet, so hopefully with encouraging garden features such as flat stones and logs for them to bask on, this needn’t ever be the case.

A year in the life of …….

Spring - Adult lizards emerge from their hibernation sites in early spring. Mating takes place around April.
Summer - Females incubate the eggs inside themselves and ‘give birth’ to up to 11 live young around July/August. Juvenile lizards are tiny - less than 5cm long - and are darker in colour than the adults.
Autumn - Lizards spend the next couple of months feeding up on invertebrates in preparation for winter. They feed on worms, slugs and insects and give their prey a good shake, to stun it, before swallowing.
Winter - Common lizards hibernate, often in groups, amongst rocks or dead wood generally between November and March. They may take advantage of milder patches of weather to come out and forage.

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