If you stroll down Sandy Wall path on a sunny day, you might be greeted by our resident common lizards! They are often seen in the summer months soaking up the rays on the wooden path edging; as ectotherms (or ‘cold-blooded’ creatures), they rely on the sun’s warmth to increase their body temperature.

Photo by Matthew Wilkinson of a common lizard basking on a sunny boardwalk at Strumpshaw Fen.

Common lizards’ grey or medium to dark brown colouring with lighter or darker spots and stripes camouflage them well against logs and vegetation. Colouration varies greatly between individual lizards, and males usually have yellow or orange spotty bellies while females have paler undersides. Lizards periodically shed their skin to reveal brighter, new skin beneath. This allows them to grow and remove parasites. They can dart quickly into the reeds if they are disturbed, so you’ll need to approach quietly and keep your eyes peeled to spot them.

Matthew Wilkinson was fortunate to capture this photo of a common lizard shedding its old skin.

You may notice that some lizards have no tail or a shorter tail than the others. This is because their tail can be shed if they are attacked, which may distract the predator and doesn’t harm the lizard, allowing it to escape to safety. Remarkably, they can re-grow their tail over time!

The scientific name for common lizards is Zootoca vivipara, which gives a clue to their reproduction strategy: they are a viviparous species – they can incubate their eggs internally and then give birth to live young. This, along with their ability to hibernate, allows them to thrive in cooler climates. They are the UK’s commonest and most widely found reptile, and they are the only reptile species on Ireland.

If you are lucky enough to see our common lizards, our friendly reception volunteers would love to hear about your sightings as always. You can share your photos with us on Twitter and Facebook.

You can read more about common lizards on the Wildlife Trust’s website.

Blog written by Jenna Woodford