Northern Ireland

Slievenacloy Nature Reserve lizards adapt for NI climate

Adult lizard Image copyright Philip McErlean
Image caption The common lizard is Ireland's only native reptile

Some 40 lizards have been spotted sunbathing at a Northern Ireland nature reserve after an exceptional summer for the tiny reptiles.

There were 16 babies among the batch logged at Slievenacloy Nature Reserve in the Belfast hills.

The common lizard is the only reptile native to Ireland.

The lizards have adapted to survive in our cool climate by hatching their eggs internally and giving birth to live young in late summer.

Last year a poor spring and summer saw a marked drop in the birth rate.

But this year conditions are better, leading to the larger numbers spotted by volunteer Philip McErlean.

Image copyright Philip McErlean
Image caption Sixteen babies were among the batch logged at Slievenacloy Nature Reserve over the weekend

"During the summer, there is a great boost to numbers, with lots of little dark-coloured, baby lizards making an appearance," said Philip.

The reserve, managed by Ulster Wildlife, is an ideal habitat for the secretive animals with ungrazed areas providing a steady supply of insects.

Andy Crory, Nature Reserves Manager with Ulster Wildlife said: "We always knew this special grassland site was a real hotspot for common lizards, but this year's numbers were pretty exceptional - a good sign that we're providing suitable habitat conditions."

Unfortunately, despite the higher birth rate, the bulk of the babies will not make it through to adulthood.

About 90% are picked off as food by other creatures.

The best place to spot them is on a south-facing slope close to cover.

As well as Slievenacloy, they're also found at Divis, Black Mountain, Cave Hill and in every county in Northern Ireland.

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