Lizards Laying Low

Flanders Moss NNR

While clearing the bog of encroaching tree saplings, one of our team stumbled across a rather sleepy little scaled fellow! At this time of year, lizards will be hunkering down to hibernate underground through the winter. This individual was rather slow to dig a little deeper, away from our disturbing gaze, which provided a fantastic opportunity to get a good look at an otherwise very elusive little species!

A male common lizard – identifiable by the spotty, stripy pattern along his back (and later by his yellow belly)

Britain is home to 3 native lizard species; the common lizard, the sand lizard and the slow worm (which is very confusingly named – this ‘worm’ is neither worm nor snake, but a legless lizard).

Lizards, being reptiles, are cold-blooded, meaning they generally rely on external temperatures for maintaining their body warmth (as opposed to mammals, which are warm-blooded and can generally maintain their own internal body temperature). You will therefore often find lizards and snakes orienting themselves towards the rising sun, which provides the best opportunity for a quick warm up.

They will hibernate throughout winter, emerge in early spring to establish territories, and mate April-May. Females will carry their eggs for approximately 13 weeks, hatching up to 10-11 offspring which will be no larger than 5cm.

Here you can get a sense of size – even large lizard are still very small!

In warmer countries, lizards do not need to worry so much about where to lay their eggs or how to warm up. But, in cooler regions they need to choose places that will remain warm enough to provide good incubation conditions, and warm them quickly to allow for a full day of hunting various invertebrates – favourites include tasty spiders, grasshoppers and worms!

You are most likely to spot a lizard basking in the morning sunshine on rocks, close to paths, and on south-facing slopes. Man-made habitats such as compost heaps are very warm, and a good place to spot shiny silver slow worms.

Fun Fact: Some lizard species, including those found in the UK, will loose their tails when a predator grabs it as an escape method!

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