After a few failed attempts, I have finally seen a wild sand lizard ! I went out with a licensed volunteer to the established reintroduction site as part of my usual surveying and expected to see nothing, maybe a few common lizards, just like last time. Amazingly we were lucky enough to see a juvenile sandie and had really good views of it. Although no photos, I was too busy looking at the lizard to think about getting my phone out. Chuffed to bits. And it really is like the difference between a smooth newt and a great crested newt – once you’ve seen a crestie, you’ll never confuse the two.
The next day I was invited to come and help with the release of some captive bred juvenile sand lizards at the ongoing reintroduction site. Cue loads of pictures of cute baby lizards:
These ones definitely looked ready to leave their temporary home.
Travel cases for these ones were distinctly more luxy, complete with plastic plants.
Nationally the sand lizard reintroduction programme has been a great success, particularly at Harlech (tripping over sand lizards, apparently, I must go and have a look). There have been several sets of releases at different sites on this part of the coast, and the current one will involve three consecutive years of releases, each of 50 plus hatchlings. The animals originate from the Merseyside population and are bred at Chester Zoo and by private breeders Paul Hudson of Penrith and Ray Lynch of Blackpool. They are artificially incubated to ensure they grow fast, are well fed, and so are bigger than the average wild juvenile on going into hibernation, which will hopefully mean good survival rates. You can see in the pictures above that there are animals of various sizes – these are between 1 and 6 weeks old, whereas wild animals will only have been around for 2 to 3 weeks (this all happened in early September).
Last year 65 hatchlings were released and we released 74 this time around. Here’s one exploring its new home:
What a privilege to be able to handle these animals and help them recolonise their former habitats.
And as a bonus we also found a young natterjack toad 🙂