Thursday, 9 October 2008

Lizards in France

There are five species of lizard that you may see around Preuilly-sur-Claise, but only two that you will almost certainly encounter.

By far the most common, almost ubiquitous, is the European Wall Lizard (Lézard des murailles) Podarcis muralis, especially around walls and buildings, but also on rocky outcrops and cliffs. They are great fun to watch as they go about their business, investigating crevices, sunning themselves, scattering and diving into their holes in the wall if alarmed. They will become quite accepting of your presence if you have the time and patience not to alarm them and do not get too close. They live in family groups so you will often see several together, all different sizes and ages. You sometimes see 'stumpy' individuals, who have survived having their tail ripped off by a predator. They are very fine boned, with long slender 'fingers', limbs and tail. They can be seen almost all year if the weather is sunny - we have seen them in November at Fontevraud, but this one is from May in our garden.

The other species you will probably see in the undergrowth, but may not get such a good look at, is the Western Green Lizard (Lézard vert occidental) Lacerta bilineata. This species likes moderately long grass at the edge of woodland and close to water. Do be careful when you are mowing or strimming -- it is a good idea to walk the area you are going to mow first, to frighten them off, as they can be badly injured or killed by the mower. They are very wary and hide in the leaf litter, making it very difficult to get an unobscured view of them, even though they are bright green. I think this one, with its hint of blue around the mouth, is a male. It was photographed in May at the Réserve Naturelle de Chérine.

The Green Lizard typically occurs in heathland, so long as there are areas of grass that they can hunt and sunbath in. In the Chérine, Sologne Sheep (les moutons solognots) are employed to keep areas of grassland open and ensuring the scrub does not invade the clearings necessary for species like the Green Lizard.

There is one more lizard that you may encounter in Preuilly if you lift up pieces of wood, corrugated iron or rocks in a quiet damp place (like the back of your garden). This looks like a small snake, but is in fact the legless lizard known as a Slow Worm (Orvet fragile) Anguis fragilis. I'm afraid I cheated a bit with the photo for this one - this female, with the dark line down her flank, is British, found at Llanymynech and photographed when I was on a reptiles and amphibians course at Preston Montford Field Studies Centre.

There is a good website for French species called Reptiles & Amphibiens de France (in French or English, with distribution maps, full descriptions and photos, includes snakes and lizards, frogs and toads, newts and salamanders and tortoises).

Susan

6 comments:

wcs said...

I've seen all three of those around our place. And, of course, I thought that last one was just a short snake; now I know better!

Unfortunately, I have hit an orvet with the mower, but never a green lizard.

Ken Broadhurst said...

I'm not sure I've seen the green lizard, but we have plenty of lézards des murailles on the walls of our house when the sun comes out. And like WCS, I've seen an orvet too, but the only time was when I decapitated one with the rototiller.

We also have a plague of toads in our yard in the spring and again in early fall. Callie loves to play with them.

Thanks for the link to the reptile site. Very useful. Ken

Susan said...

I bet the toads aren't quite so keen on playing with Callie :-)

Do check out the website – you'll find a couple of your fellow Americans on there.

Le Pré de la Forge said...

Susan, Herpfrance seems to be coming up blank at the moment...
I was looking for something about three weeks ago...
not having visited for ages and the page loads blank.
Just tried again from this link...
just the same!!
The URL just loads a blank white page...

Susan said...

Daniel seems to have abandoned the site about 12-18 months ago. It's a shame. He no longer owns the URL. However, thanks to Simon and the Way Back Machine, I can offer you this: Archived Cache for HerpFrance.

Le Pré de la Forge said...

Bona, bona!!
Mucho thnkus!!

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