All posts tagged lizard


Butterfly survey

Every so often we are contacted by members of the public who have spotted various things in the Woods. Mr Malcolm Watling, a former Margate resident who now lives in North Wales, visited Dane Valley Woods during the summer and recorded butterfly species present. These included a Brown Argus, which has not been recorded here before. Malcolm writes:-

“On the 28th and 29th July I spent a couple of hours on each day looking round the site for butterflies and other wildlife. The weather was a bit breezy and cloudy, but warm with enough useful sunny intervals. Here is a list of my observations:

– Large White and Gatekeeper, very common
– Small White and Meadow brown, frequent
– Oak Eggar Moth (1) (by the Mill)
– Speckled Wood (1)
– Migrant Hawker dragonfly (2)
– Brown Argus, (1)
– Common Blue male, several
– Common Blue female (1) (with a lot of blue colour)
– Essex Skipper (4)
– Holly Blue (3)
– Red Admiral (1)
– Peacock (1)
– 6-Spotted Burnet moth (1)

There was also one Common Lizard, basking on a crumpled-up black bin-liner!”

Brown Argus (female) 29 July 2015

Brown Argus (female) 29 July 2015

Malcolm has also sent a picture of the Woods site from 1973, showing what is presumed to be the former tip site, with loads of starlings on a bush. He notes that the size of the trees along the road is worth comparing with now, as is the style of the cars. Thank you Malcolm for sending this information in, we look forward to hearing from you again, and we would also like to hear from anyone else who has memories like this or are recording wildlife – let us know via the contact page on this website.

Dane Valley Woods on 2 June 1973

Dane Valley Woods on 2 June 1973

Spotted at Dane Valley Woods: Common lizard

Common lizard

The United Kingdom is home to six types of reptile, and one of these scaly friends is found abundantly in Dane Valley Woods. The common lizard (Zootoca vivipara) is found across most of the country and Dane Valley Woods is ideal habitat for it to thrive.

The common lizard has a great variation in colour but tends to be brownish with spotted and striped patterns, although different colour morphs exist, such as the rare plain morph which has been spotted in the Woods! Common lizards may also be melanistic, which means completely black (but melanistic adults are not to be confused with new-born common lizards which are also totally black).Rare plain morph common lizard

Common lizards are sexually dimorphic meaning males and females look different. A male lizard tends to be ‘spotty’ whilst a female tends to be more ‘stripey’. The sex can be more easily distinguished by their bellies as males have bright orange or yellow bellies covered with black spots, whereas females have plain grey or yellowish bellies with no spots.

Common lizards are also known as viviparous lizards, which means they give birth to live young, unlike many other species of reptile which lay eggs. However, interestingly, populations in warmer climates actually lay eggs and these populations tend not to interbreed successfully with live young laying lizards. A female may give birth from 3 to 11 offspring which are born black with no markings.

The juvenile lizards as well as adult lizards are important prey species, as you may have read in our Kestrel blog, however, they are not easy prey to catch. Reptiles are ‘cold blooded’ so use the sun to warm themselves up and become active, so on hot days common lizards are extremely fast and nimble and catching a sight of them becomes difficult. Common lizards are also competent swimmers and may use this as a means of escaping. However, in extreme cases, a lizard may also shed its tail to escape. The tail remains wriggling to distract the predator, giving the lizard a chance to get to safety.

Whilst this species is widespread, studies have suggested a decline in its numbers and it has recently been added to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, it is also protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.

To read up about this species and other reptiles, visit Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group.

Tiny juvenile common lizard