Seeing Eye to Eye with Wild Lizards
Photographing wild animals is not easy but Youth Ambassador Alex White has been successful in stalking Common Lizards.
The Common lizard is one of 3 lizards native to Britain. I recently came across several basking in the sun, in one of their favourite habitats, at Strumpshaw Fen in Norfolk.
Common Lizards can be found in open sunny places but where dense cover is nearby, such as on railway embankments, heaths, woodland glades and where I spotted them, on a man-made boardwalk surrounded by tall grasses and damp ground. Perfect habitat for their prey, which include insects, spiders and occasionally small snails. Using both scent and sight, the lizards pounce on their prey and stun it by shaking before swallowing it whole. Although I can't imagine what a stunned snail must look like.
It was hot and humid on the day I noticed 7 or 8 lizards sitting on a path close to the reed beds. Being ectothermic they bask in the sun to raise their body temperature to 30 degrees. As I took a step closer, one by one, they all scattered away in to the reeds. While being fairly common and widespread around Britain, they can be hard to spot as they move away quickly when disturbed.
It was like a game of Grandmother's footsteps. Each time I sneaked a little closer the ones in front of me scuttled off, while the ones behind me crept back out in to the open.
I quickly realised that if I lay down on the path, much to the amusement of other visitors to the RSPB site, that after a few moments all the lizards would slowly creep back on to the path and resume their basking in the sun.
Common lizards have an average life span of around 5-6 years and can grow up to 15cm in length, they are sometimes mistaken for a newt.
Looking closely at the skin will reveal the difference, lizards have scaly skin where as newts have smooth skin.
This reptile can vary a lot in colour, ranging from mainly brown with varying shades of yellow, green and black. Females generally have a paler, unspotted belly, while the males have an orangey yellow belly with black spots.
During the winter they hibernate, often in groups. They emerge from hibernation around March. After venturing out, the males begin to mate during the months of April and May. Three to ten eggs are usually laid in the month of July. When the young hatch they are only 3 centimetres in length and have black scales.
Alex White is a 14 years old naturalist and has been writing blogs on 'Appleton Wildlife Diaries' since he was 10 years old. He is also a keen amateur wildlife photographer. His interests lie in British wildlife, especially mammals. Alex is extremely passionate about getting younger people involved in wildlife.