What kind of lizards did you see at Cleaver?
These lizards are Viviparous Lizards’ but usually referred to as Common Lizards. There are no Sand Lizards around here. ‘Viviparous’ means they give birth to live young rather than via eggs as many other reptiles do.
What time of year is best to see them?
As a casual visitor, you have to be very lucky to see them - either when they scuttle across the path or basking on a bare patch on a sunny day. So the summer months are best. They hibernate deep in vegetation in the winter. We conducted the survey between April and September although, as I mentioned in a previous email, we kept clear during much of the bird nesting season. The survey involves sneaking up quietly to each refugia/mat and, if not occupied on the top, gently lifting the mat to see what is below. In most cases we found ants and ant eggs.
Why are they breeding successfully at the reserve?
Lowland heath is a suitable habit for the common lizard. Lizards eat flies, spiders and other invertebrates which are quite plentiful in the heathland panels of Cleaver. (The heather is currently awash with various spiders and web structures). The nearby scrub provides suitable cover at night and for winter hibernation. The survey showed us some very small (4cm or so) juveniles which are almost black as well as, later, older juveniles starting to develop the attractive markings of adults. It also gave us an indication of which areas are currently attractive to the reptiles.
Visit the Cleaver Heath webpage to find out how to get there!