Thursday, 21 April 2011

Lizards next door

My neighbours are decidedly common. I can say this without the slightest hint of snobbery, for they live in a field. You should see the things they eat! I had barely moved to this wonderful Scottish island (home for the next three years) when I was distracted by them.

Cumbrae isn't short on things to look at. I'll go into birds in more depth later, for now I'll simply say that you can see more coastal species on the bus from the ferry to town that a lot of places can give you in a day's walking. There are seals and harbour porpoises to distract you daily. Rock pools stocked heavily enough to interest the most tiresome of children. Hedgehogs, badgers, rabbits.... My heart, however, has been stolen by the Common Lizards.

The first glimpse I had was on a particularly sunny walk. A swishing of dry grass stopped me in my tracks as I walked back toward the house... a flash of tail between the leaves... and joy of joys, emerging to enjoy the same sunlight as myself, a small lizard.

Instantly I was down on my haunches at the side of the road, peering at the tiny animal which was nervously eyeing the horizon, twitching his feet when I moved to quickly. Passing cyclists, of which the island has a never ending supply, looked at me as though I was crazed. Peering intently at the undergrowth, perilously close to the road. I was so concious of this that I resorted to such comments as "I'm not mad, there's a lizard". To be honest I don't believe it helped. I was then faced with the dilemma common to those who unexpectedly come across a little gem like this... Could I get to my camera without flushing the little beast?

No. I was infuriated.

However the lizards of Cumbrae have not left me wanting. I hear them whenever I walk in the sunshine, passing their field on the way to work, sauntering out with birding in mind, nipping to the shops. Infrequently I get good views, adults of around five inches, adorable three inch tiddly ones, particularly around the sun-baked sandstone wall beside my digs.

I adore this tiny community that makes me work so hard to be involved in its too-ing and fro-ing and hope soon to have some better pictures to post.

Vanishing Tails; the usual glimpse

Infuriatingly Close; the best view I got all afternoon.

Anyone interested in Scottish lizards can find more information at

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