Nature Notes One                                                      July 2020


This is a new feature being added to the council website by the Council Conservation Committee.  The intent is to offer a regular series of nature topics that adult leaders might find useful to share with their scouts.  I have found that many adults do not have much background in nature and are not comfortable in teaching nature to scouts.  This is intended to be something you can use to increase awareness of nature with you scouts and hopefully spark their interest.  Some information can be used for scout advancement, including selected merit badge requirements, and some will be just fun stuff that can be tossed out to scouts to make them think about the world around them.  I certainly don’t have all the answers to the mysteries of nature, but having spent 10 years at Camp Ottari teaching nature merit badges, I have a pretty good idea what scouts know – and don’t know – about nature and how to explain things to them.  I may have guest writers from time to time cover subjects.  We will adjust as we go.  The objective is to help create an interest in nature among your scouts.  I would like to hear back from you about this new feature.  Is it helpful? How are you using it? What are some suggestions for future subjects?  Email me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and thanks for visiting this site.                              

Bob Garst

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.

Nature Opportunities:

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.