The Surprising Lizard

20 Jul

Walking in the Black Mountains I find a dead lizard, belly-up on the gorse. What is it doing here? It is a surprising lizard. I am walking along a long ridge of moorland, with the Ewyas Valley to my right and the Grwyne Fawr reservoir (see picture) to my left.

I have never seen a lizard here before, and I grew up nearby, and spent much of my childhood and teen years tramping around these hills. Are they even indigenous to this part of the world, to these islands? In my mind the lizard should live in more southerly zones.

These mountains lie beneath international flight paths. Is it possible the lizard was hitching a lift on an aircraft, lodged inside a crevice in the undercarriage or wheel-well, and was dislodged during the flight, falling many thousands of feet to land in a heap of gorse on the wide stretch of moorland marked on ordnance survey map 161 simply as ‘Y Fan’? Did it climb on board in some sunny lizard-friendly country only to be cruelly ejected over Wales?

I put it in my pocket, and when I get home its tail has broken off, which is upsetting. I place the two parts of the lizard on a sheet of paper to photograph, and try and put the broken-off piece of lizard back where it belongs, but you can see the crack in its tail. Checking out the website ‘Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK’  I discover that ‘you may find one almost anywhere from gardens, heathland, wooded glades, disused railway tracks, open meadows to the banks of ditches and along hedgerows’. They are also a protected species, and it is therefore an offence to kill, harm or injure them, sell or trade them in any way.

I have to confess, that my lizard bears a close resemblance to the male viviparous lizard (left) in the illustration below:

The viviparous or common lizard is one of the three lizard species native to the UK, the other two being the sand lizard and the slow worm, but it is with some reluctance that I abandon the lizard-stuck-to-the-undercarriage-or-trapped-in-the-wheel-well of a plane theory. Does this reflect a need always to prefer an obscure or exotic explanation when a more straightforward one is available?

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