Monthly column: Take a Walk on the Wild Side

The Common Lizard, captured on camera by Amy Lewis.
The Common Lizard, captured on camera by Amy Lewis.

This month Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s Rachel Shaw writes about snakes and lizards.

Sightings of reptiles are often just a glimpse of a tail as it disappears into the undergrowth but reptiles are sun-worshippers.

They need to bask in the sun to warm up and tend to have favourite sun-bathing spots. Sit still near patches of bare ground that warm up quickly (that’s next to areas of cover into which the animal can flee if disturbed) and you may be rewarded with a sighting.

Six species of reptile, three snakes and three lizards, can be found in the UK from the far north of Scotland to the south coast of England.

Two of these, the sand lizard and the smooth snake, are very rare and not found in Lincolnshire.

Adders are becoming increasing rare and, in Lincolnshire, are now only found in a few places with sandy soil and heathland vegetation.

Our most widespread and common reptile is the common lizard.

They are variable in colour, but usually brownish-grey, often with rows of darker markings down the back and sides. Also known as the viviparous lizard, the species is unusual among reptiles for ‘giving birth’ to live young rather than laying eggs.

Grass snakes are the largest of our reptiles, sometimes reaching up to a metre in length.

Grass snakes are great swimmers and are often found in wetland habitats and with a particular penchant for garden ponds.

They lay their eggs in rotting vegetation, often in compost heaps. Usually greenish in colour, grass snakes can be identified by the yellow collar and black neck patches.

Neither worms nor snakes, the slow-worm is in fact a legless-lizard. Like other lizards, slow-worms can shed their tails and blink with their eyelids. They are often found in mature gardens and allotments, where they like hunting around the compost heap. However, if you have a cat, you are unlikely to find them in your garden as cats predate them. Much smaller than snakes, they have smooth, golden-grey skin. Males are paler and sometimes have blue spots, while females are larger with dark sides and a dark stripe down the back.