The Western Green Lizard (Lacerta Bilineata):
An Encounter With Europe's Most Beautiful Reptile
Western green lizards (Lacerta bilineata) have such incredible colors and are of such an impressive size, that encountering the rare reptiles in your garden is an unforgettable experience. I'm not a professional photographer (and I'm sure it shows ;-); I'm just a nature nerd with a camera who enjoys observing the wildlife around his vacation home in the beautiful Malcantone region in Ticino, Switzerland. But these gorgeous lizards have attracted my eye (and the lens of my camera) more than any other of the various non-human visitors and residents I encountered in my garden over the years, and one might say this fascination of mine has grown into a bit of an obsession.
My friends and family have asked me kindly to please stop telling them about lizards (or seek help), and so I finally decided to dedicate a website to the species (and other fauna that shares the same habitat), to get it all out of my system. Hopefully, we can all get on with our lives now; apparently there are signs that I'm doing better and appear slightly more balanced - at least that's what my lizard friends tell me...
But all jokes aside, western green lizards are truly a marvelous and fascinating reptile species, that more than deserves its own website. In the local Italian dialect, these lizards are called "ghezz" or "sghezz". The word is derived from the verb "sghezzare" which means "to scare", and there were indeed some older residents in our village that told me they were scared of them.
There are a few local tales and legends about them; the old-timers also think they scare away the snakes, which definitely isn't true; quite the opposite in fact, as most snakes prey on them. But I kinda get it: not only is this "flamboyant" little dragon much bigger than all other lizards in the region, it also displays such stunning colors - particularly during mating season - that upon an unexpected encounter where it might suddenly scurry across your path, it could certainly give you a good scare.
My own first impression was that this had to be a lizard escaped from a zoo, since encountering such a "bird of paradise" outside a tropical jungle (and in my garden of all places!) seemed unimaginable. I couldn't even believe there existed reptiles of such exotic beauty anywhere on the European continent - let alone in Switzerland.
But nope, as it turns out, Europe's most beautiful reptile species belongs as much to the local Swiss fauna as its smaller cousin, the common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis), and although it is much rarer than its less eccentric looking relative and usually flees immediately when approached, with a little patience (and through the high art of the sneaky stealth approach which I have perfected ;-) it's possible to observe it up close and capture it on camera. Also, I've found these lizards to be rather intelligent; they keenly observe their surroundings and seem very curious as to what goes on in their territory.
On more than one occasion when I've been rummaging around in the garden (cutting the grass or plucking weeds from the vegetable patch) I've unexpectedly found myself at the center of reptilian scrutiny as a male Lacerta bilineata would emerge from its hiding place and observe with a critical eye what all the ruckus in its habitat was about.
Despite all my noise and hectic movement - which would normally scare away reptiles such as snakes and lizards - it would remain there and watch me attentively, and I could even observe how it would later go on to closely inspect the premises once I had stopped my activity and retreated to a certain distance.
I know as humans we tend to humanize animal behavior (and I'm obviously guilty of that as well), but it's hard not to once you observe the expressive eyes of a "ghezz" up close. I've also found that western green lizards adapt their behavior with regards to humans over time; once they've decided you're not a threat - which is usually after you've consistently been entering the reptiles' habitat for a couple of days - they become more tolerant of your presence and only flee when your approach is sudden and unexpected or you get far within their flight zone.
I know from Youtube videos that there are people who managed to gain the trust of wild Lacerta bilineata to the point where they were able to feed them by hand or even stroke the lizards, but I've never attempted to do that myself. I'm content to observe their natural behavior, and I'm more than happy if I succeed in taking a good picture of Europe's most beautiful reptile every once in a while - which I can then share with people who have a similar passion for the wonders of nature as I do.
And that, my friends, is precisely the purpose of this website: to share my latest pics of this gorgeous species (and occasionally other visitors to my garden of the non-homo-sapiens-sapiens variety) with like-minded folk.
All the photos you find here were taken in and around my garden and only depict wild animals (and for the nerds among you: the camera I used from 2021 onwards is a Sony DSC RX10 Mark IV; the older photos were with very few exceptions taken with a Canon PowerShot SX 700 HS). As already mentioned I'm not a professional photographer, so please do excuse the somewhat varying quality of the pictures.
Oh, and I'm not a biologist or western green lizard expert either (though a friend of mine jokingly calls me a "ghezzpert" sometimes ;-), so if you notice I messed up the description of a photo, don't hesitate to let me know. That's all; I hope you enjoy these pics - and don't be shy to use the comments section underneath the blog photos if you feel like letting me know your thoughts or if you have questions.