The rare and very shy sand lizard is seldom seen, although at up to 9 cm body length and over 20 cm from head to tail it is actually quite a bit bigger than the common lizard, Lacerta vivipara. It is also relatively brightly coloured, with attractive occeli (eye-shaped markings) and green flanks.
Habitat loss is generally considered to be the main cause of the decline in numbers of sand lizards. The natural populations were apparently lost from the sand dunes of North Wales and Merseyside and from the New Forest, although programmes of work to reintroduce them have provided encouraging results in recent years; and a re-introduction to the Inner Hebrides in the early 1970s appears to have resulted in a self sustaining population.
As the common name implies, the habitat needs of these lizards are for dry sandy places such as sand dunes and sandy heathland. Sand lizards are not viviparous; the female buries her eggs in the warm dry sand, where the summer sun provides the heat necessary for hatching the eggs.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act provides very strict protection for this lizard, which in Britain is considered to be threatened with extinction. If you come across sand lizards you are not allowed to handle or even disturb them.
Picture courtesy Bob Osborne