Catching some very early sun last year.
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I was wondering what the earliest date for a Common Lizard sighting was - this must be up there!
What makes some lizards hibernate from Oct to March, while others are able to pop out whenever they get a chance?
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But it is a lot warmer in October, when they go into hibernation, than it is in January! (Unless there was an exceptionally warm spell when this observation was made - Jan 2012.)
Certainly Wall Lizards (Podarcis) do seem to pop out readily in response to temperature (one iSpot user is currently trying to post a sighting for each month) but most Common Lizards stubbornly remain in their hibernacula throughout mild spells of weather in the winter months. There must be some other trigger that tells them its March!
I think hibernation (actually brumation in our reptiles) needs to be seen in a more flexible way, not set by dates and months. Reptiles move around throughout the winter while underground and will also pop up above ground if appropriate.
It may be 0oC ambient temperature, but if that sunny bank sheltered from the wind has had full sun shine all day it could easily be 5-10oC on and just below the surface. There are numerous examples of common lizards and adders being seen above ground in very cold conditions, including with snow on the ground. There will always be some early rises, normally males trying to complete spermatogenesis first to get pick of the ladies. But this strategy may fail if they get caught out in the cold or predated as they can't move fast enough.
If you are not looking you are not going see anything but there have been warm spells in late Oct when I have looked intensively in known locations and found nothing. The depth of hibernacula may be a factor - perhaps the ones which pop out in winter are hibernating nearer the surface?
This was on a day when if in an exposed location it was quite windy and chilly but in a sheltered area it was surprisingly warm. The location where we found this lizard was on a bank alongside a deep bridleway, it was very sheltered from the wind and had been exposed to sunlight for hours. That said the lizard was moving very slowly.
Lat/Lng: 51.639, -2.818
OS grid ref: ST434936