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Dorset wall lizard populations - update

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will View Drop Down
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    Posted: 27 Aug 2013 at 11:13am
Just back from a week in Purbeck, during which I checked out six wall lizard populations of varying sizes to see what effect the run of bad summers has had on them, and whether they seem to have fared as badly as our native sand lizards in this part of the world due to low hatching success.  Admittedly this was a snapshot, with most sites being visited only once, but here are my observations:

Boscombe - wall lizards still reasonably abundant though not as common as a few years ago; plenty of this year's hatchlings visible, including some already fairly well grown, in contrast with last year when I found hardly any at all.  Hatchling below:



Isle of Portland - Cheyne Weare population

These animals seem to be the oyensis / muralis subspecies with no green backed individuals; thus they look very much like those which are presumed native on Jersey, and also in northern France.  We counted 35 in one hour of excellent weather, but almost all were adult and looked rather old.  No sign of hatchlings here.  We didn't have time to check out the nearby Tout Quarry lizards, which are apparently more like the maculiventris-type Italian subspecies of wall lizard, with green-backed individuals.  A male and a pair shown below:





Winspit Quarry, south Purbeck - in previous years we have seen around half a dozen lizards here, mostly large adults.  In spite of spending almost an hour here in ideal conditions, we found no lizards, although of course it is possible we missed them (especially hatchlings).  Tentatively I would suggest that this introduction is extinct, but worth checking out if you are in the area (Square and Compass pub highly recommended on the walk to the Quarry!)

Canford Cliffs, Poole - see separate post started by Rob Pilley in 'sand lizard' section

Durlston Country Park - I have never seen wall lizards here in six years, and with the extensive refurbishment of the 'Castle' where they were supposed to be found, I think it's likely that this population is extinct

Corfe Castle - the odd animal seen over the past couple of years at the top of the Castle, but none seen this time.

Overall conclusion - several of the lesser populations of wall lizard seem to have disappeared in recent years, perhaps unsurprisingly due to the awful summers of late.  The more robust ones are still going, and this year has probably been a shot in the arm to these populations, which may bounce back, for better or for worse...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark_b Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Aug 2013 at 2:19pm
Thanks for the update Will, interesting!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote will Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Aug 2013 at 3:45pm
Thanks Mark; yes, it's interesting in particular to see how an egg-laying species of lizard which often chooses to lay eggs in cracks and crevices in walls, or under flat stones etc is faring when compared with the sand lizard and its more restricted choice of egg laying substrate - ie sand.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rob_H Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Aug 2013 at 11:17am
Great post!

If anyone is interested in the approximate native locations of the UK wall lizards, a paper with some details on this was published earlier this year:

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10530-012-0353-3

Cheers,
Rob
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JaySteel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Sep 2013 at 10:22am
I visited Boscombe on Wednesday hoping to photograph the Western Green Lizards but I couldn't find a single specimen. I'm wondering if reptile collectors and a couple of very poor summers have wiped them out completely now.

Despite the cloudless sky and very hot temps there were plenty of Wall Lizards about though. 
I counted around 30 in two hours. Half of these were juveniles so breeding has obviously gone well this year. The adults were very wary and had to be photographed with a 300mm lens but the juveniles allowed me to get up to six inches away and shoot with a macro lens. 






Jason
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote will Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Sep 2013 at 6:09pm
Hi Jason

more stunning photos as ever!

as far as green lizards go, I found about half a dozen a couple of weeks ago, but they can be hard to find in hot weather (unlike the walls, which seem to be visible at all temperatures, just harder to approach when it's really hot, as you say!)  I do think there are fewer greens than in previous years, due to cold summers, though I expect hatching success to be high this year.  It will be interesting to see what numbers we see next spring.

Cheers

Will
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JaySteel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Sep 2013 at 6:45pm
Thanks very much Will. It's very good to hear that the greens are still there. I'm surprised that I didn't even see any juvenile greens then on Wednesday. I'll have to try again when the weather is more suitable. It's a long drive from SE London / North Kent though.

I spent the rest of the day at Studland looking for Sand Lizards to photograph with my 300mm lens. I failed to spot any of them all day either! 
(I really would love a licence-holder for Sand Lizards to allow me the opportunity to accompany them on a recording outing one day. I keep hoping!)

Jason

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote will Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Sep 2013 at 8:56am
It's a long way to travel, for sure!  Sandies become hard to spot from August onwards, apparently some even start going underground before September, leaving the hatchlings and immatures on the surface.  I have a smooth snake licence, but not one for sandies, otherwise you would have been more than welcome to come along with me.  I think there are various reptile walks offered by the various experts in Dorset - ARC Trust etc - in springtime, so maybe worth asking in advance.  Perhaps you could offer to give them the rights to some of the photos you take - a photo of a male in full breeding condition is great for publicity purposesSmile  - maybe send them a link to your website?
Cheers
Will
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