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Nature Notes One July 2020
Our current topic: Lizard identification – it’s easy.
Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains Council area, there are only two lizards you are likely to find in your scouting outings. Both are usually 4”-6” in length.
The first one is an ugly looking thing called a Fence Lizard. It’s a dull, grey/brown spiny lizard with a series of zig-zag lines, or chevrons across its back. You’ll find it mostly in wooded areas on logs, stumps, and, of course, on wooden fences.
The other common lizard is the Five-lined Skink. This is a shiny-looking lizard with parallel lines running down its back, and usually with a blue tail. Sometimes it’s called a Blue-tailed skink. (A skink is just a type of lizard – let’s don’t get too technical here.) It’s often found in more open areas and around buildings in the sun. In the spring, they will sometimes show an orange throat. Both of these guys are fast. Remember they are a nice meal for other critters (especially large birds) so they need to be able to escape. The skink has a unique and peculiar characteristic to help it. The bright tail is readily detached if it is caught, and the lizard grows another one to replace it.
So, keep a look out for these two common reptiles (remember, reptiles have scales like snakes and lizards, and amphibians have smooth, moist looking skin, like frogs and salamanders – more on that later) during your outings and see if you can find and identify them. You can use their identification for second class requirement as well as a start on Nature Merit Badge. There are a few other species of lizards in Virginia, but they are not likely to be found in our area.
A good field guide will help identify other species of reptiles and amphibians. Find them at local bookstores or on line. Remember, sometimes a simpler field guide is best for scouts just getting into nature identification. A detailed guide can be over-whelming and offer too many choices that will just confuse a young scout. This too is a subject for a future posting on the web.