Western Green Lizard (Lacerta Bilineata): Search
If you are looking for information about western green lizards (Lacerta bilineata), or just for beautiful photos, you've come to the right place. What started as a small photo project to pass the time during Covid lockdown has now become the online "western green lizard encyclopedia", where the person searching can find everything about these fascinating and beautiful reptiles: their distribution, diet, habitat, behavior and life expectancy as well as a detailed description of the species, and anecdotes about my own experiences and observations. And of course above all: many, many photos :-)
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- Western Green Lizards (Lacerta Bilineata) In Ticino: The Hardships Of A Photographer
When male western green lizards are in love, their face turns blue. This doesn't happen instantly (they can't change color at will like chameleons); the lizards need to shed their old, slightly less colorful (but also very pretty) skin first, and once that is accomplished, they appear in the beautiful "wedding suit" you can see in the photo below. With this look they try to impress the lady lizards during mating season, which lasts approximately from May to June, but the colors are the most striking in the immediate aftermath of the lizards losing their "old coat". I was very lucky to capture this gorgeous male at this very moment; in fact, you can still see parts of the old, dark skin covering the top of its head and other parts of the body where it hadn't quite come off yet. But you may believe me when I say that shot was hard earned. The story goes as follows (I have an idea some nature photographer or other in this group will be able to sympathize ;-). This year in May when I hoped to photograph the green lizards around my vacation home with my newly purchased camera, I soon realized something was different from the years before, because I couldn't find a single one of my green friends in their usual spots in my garden. This came as a nasty shock to me, because after many years of photographing western green lizards - which are my favorite animals and not easy to find - in my garden with an old compact camera that yielded only mediocre results, pretty much the main reason I had bought the new camera in the first place was to finally be able to do the beauty of these gorgeous reptiles justice. To have these rare creatures in my garden had always been a source of great joy for me (even pride; after all, they had chosen MY garden as their habitat) - but now my favorite residents and stars of the photographic masterpieces I (at least in my mind) was going to produce with my expensive new toy had gone A.W.O.L. As I eventually would learn over the next few days, the entire western green population had relocated from my garden into a huge fly honeysuckle shrub just outside my garden next to an empty horse pasture. This actually made sense: because there they were relatively safe from the growing number of cats in our village that had specialized in lizard hunting and massacred my poor lizards in ever greater numbers. Up in that shrub, not only was it hard for any ground predators to get at them, but the reptiles also had an excellent 360° view of their surroundings and could see any approaching threat from afar. Western green lizards are naturally very shy, but this apparently traumatized group now had become hyper-alert to anything getting close to that bush, and they immediately fled into the thickest of the leaves whenever I tried to get near enough for a usable photo. Now, I'm not one to give up easily (and I really, REALLY wanted to get those photos), so I tried every sneaky-stealth-approach technique I could think of (even crawling on all fours - which in hindsight was a terrible idea since all it did was making me look like the world's biggest and ugliest cat to the lizards) - but to no avail. Completely exasperated, I came up with a new strategy. I would keep that fly honeysuckle shrub under constant observation; like an FBI agent preparing for a crackdown on a suspected Mafia hideout, I was there, watching and waiting, hour after hour, all day long. It took me several days until I had finally figured out at what times of the day the males usually left the fly honeysuckle shrub; I wanted to know their "schedule" so I could be there before them and blend in with the environment, ready to photograph them as soon as they would show up on the ground. And all my meticulous "lizard-stalking" seemed to pay off: the first day I applied this "method" a gorgeous male showed up just where I expected it to (although Mr Lizard had me waiting for almost two hours!). I was ecstatic - for all but two seconds. As it turned out, in my infinite ineptitude I hadn't considered where the sun would be and had installed myself in such a stupid angle that the lizard was backlit; in all the photos the little devil appeared only as a mostly black silhouette. I cursed my stupidity, tore out my hair and was close to throwing my expensive new camera against a wall in anger and frustration. Then I remembered the cold beer in the fridge and realized that life was still worth living, and I promised myself to do better next time. The next day I was smart enough to make camp in a spot form where the object of my photographic desire would be perfectly lit (from the lizard's perspective, now I would be the black silhouette against the sun ;-). I waited. And I waited some more. And it was hot and getting hotter by the minute. After nearly 3 hours during which my neighbors started to give me very funny looks (in fact, they had already decided the day before that I must be crazy, what with standing motionless in front of a bush for several hours in the burning sun), around noon, I'd had enough. And that's when I saw something moving in the grass. And there he was: barely visible through the thick green carpet, but definitely coming towards me. A few seconds later a virtual lizard king appeared, in all his gorgeous green and blue glory, and perfectly lit - and that's when I heard loud, happy voices approaching. Two young boys came running - and the lizard stopped dead in its tracks (unfortunately, it was still a bit too far away for a good photo). I'm not religious, but I started a quick prayer then and there (please God, please: let these kids not be running towards me - PLEASE!!!). But nope, God apparently remembered that I usually refer to myself as agnostic, and surely enough the two boys ran right to where I was - and where Mr Lizard now wasn't. All that yelling and running was too much for my lizard king: goodbye and "auf Wiedersehen"; see ya next year - and off he went. And that was that. I couldn't believe it; I felt a frustration so intense wash over me I regretted ever having picked up a camera. As for the kids, don't worry: both boys are alive and well ;-). It was the first day of their Pentecost holiday, and they had just arrived in the village. I was standing next to the empty horse pasture, and the two little boys now innocently asked me where the horsies went (they had obviously been looking forward to seeing them and now were very disappointed). I took a deep breath and muttered that I had no idea. I don't know how other photographers would have felt in that situation, but I only wanted to be left alone (and possibly tear out what was left of my hair and reconsider that wall and what nice noise it would make upon collision with my camera ;-). Needless to say, the kids had other plans. Now that it was clear that there were no horsies, I had become the main attraction, and they weren't going anywhere. So I swallowed my anger, accepted that - obviously - the kids didn't do anything wrong (and also that I would probably never ever be able to get that desired shot with my new camera). The boys were eager to know what I was photographing, and so I told them everything about western green lizards, about their amazing colors and how rare and shy they were, and that they were among the largest lizards in Europe and a protected species - and my two new friends became instantly fascinated. Now they wanted to wait and see this magical creature with their own eyes. I assured them there was no chance the lizard would come back after all the noise "we" had made, and just as I said this, one of the boys yelled "I see it!" And sure enough, he was right. Apparently my lizard king had decided that a little yelling and running wasn't gonna get between him and his favorite sun-basking spot, a little heap of cut, dry grass underneath the fence of the horse pasture. I told the kids to be very still - which they were - and then we all got to see how this beautiful creature emerged from the grass, very, very slowly and carefully, and positioned itself on the heap of dry grass in such a way that it got the perfect amount of sunlight (in the first photo the sun is still hidden behind the clouds, after that the sunlight became gradually stronger, and you can see well in the photo gallery below how the colors of the lizard change depending on the light). So in the end I got my portrait shot - and quite a few more in the weeks that followed (which you can find on my website if you're interested). During the remainder of their holiday the two kids would run into me every now and then, and every time they excitedly talked about this fantastic, blue-headed reptile they had seen with me that day. I guess only time will tell, but I hope this encounter has sparked an interest in nature in them (I have a feeling the next time they spend their holiday in our little village, the horsies will have some reptilian competition ;-)
- The Swallowtail (Papilio Machaon) In My Garden
The swallowtail (Papilio machaon) belongs to the family Papilionidae; with a wingspan of up to 8 cm, it is one of the largest and most beautiful butterfly species in Central Europe. Its Caterpillars are mainly found on umbellifers (Apiaceae) such as fennel and carrot, but sometimes also on plants which contain similar chemicals, such as rue grave (Ruta graveolens). The swallowtail in the photo has just emerged from its chrysalis and is still spreading its wings. I photographed it in my garden, but there is a long story behind the photo that I would like to tell briefly. The wild garden around my vacation home in the Ticino, where I shot all the photos you can see on my website (well, some have been taken a couple of meters outside my garden, but that still counts in my book 😉), had been a cause of contention between me and my mom for some time. At the root of the conflict was the upper part of the garden, which originally had been conceived by my dear mother as a vegetable patch, but, left to its own devices by me after I "inherited" it, had developed into a marvelous oasis of pure botanic chaos teeming with insect life. Mom was not amused. Although she - like all in our family - is very much in favor of letting nature roam freely around the house, and she loves all creatures big and small, she (unlike me) does draw a line somewhere. That line was the vegetable patch. And she let her disapproval be known, and very clearly; she kept pestering me about my unwillingness to pluck the weeds (my response: "What weeds - there are no weeds: I'm creating a functioning ecosystem here, mom!") for several years, until my stubborn refusal made her reach her breaking point. She'd finally had enough. My mom is a cunning old lady of nearly 80 years (79 to be precise), the matriarch and evil genius of our family (make no mistake: that house and garden are still HERS - and forever will be, regardless what it says on some sheet of paper), and so like a James Bond villain plotting revenge, she hatched a diabolic plan. One day, when I was gone for a couple of weeks, she let me know via e-mail she had decided to turn this ugly weed jungle of mine into a flowery meadow. There was nothing I could do as she had already ordered a local gardening company to level that part of the garden, and once that was accomplished, as she described with obvious relish, the gardener would plant the most beautiful wild flowers and turn this ugly mess of mine into a colorful paradise. I was not amused by this at all, as you might imagine, but there was nothing I could do to save my gorgeous oasis of chaos, so I grumpily accepted "my" garden's fate. After that, my mom avoided me whenever she could, and when she couldn't, she wouldn't mention the garden at all. This didn't strike me as odd, since I assumed she might feel at least a little bit guilty about her sneaky move (at this point, I hadn't seen the "improved" version of the garden yet). Cut to a few weeks later, when I finally went back to the Ticino and finally DID see the "flowery meadow" and "colorful paradise" my dear mother had ordered. My jaw dropped. But in shock - not in awe of flowery beauty of any kind: as there were NO flowers of any kind. What there was, was sod. Plain, ugly sod, completely devoid of any insect (or other animal) life, already turning into a brownish yellow due to a lack of rain in the past weeks. You see, my mom's Italian is not very good (in fact, it's so far from good that it could be argued she doesn't speak it at all) and as it turned out, there had been a "slight" misunderstanding. Instead of planting gorgeous wild flowers, the local gardener (whose Italian is impeccable by the way), put turf rolls down after he'd leveled my oasis; turf rolls of the kind that is usually used for sterile football fields. OK (you, dear reader, might say at this point); sad story, bro - but what does it have to do with the swallowtail in the photo? The answer is: everything. The past autumn and all through spring this year I've been planting wild flowers in that garden like a mad botanist; I've planted field scabiouses and red clover, ox-eye daisies, echium, salvia and thyme and lavender as well as plants for the caterpillars of the in Switzerland rare swallowtail butterfly such as fennel and wild carrots. This was my desperate attempt to undo the damage and terrible devastation my mother's wrath had brought upon the earth (well, my garden's earth anyway) and turn this sod-desert into an oasis of insect life and colorful paradise once more. And it worked! Ever since those plants started flowering my garden has been an attraction for all kinds of butterflies and generally insects, even rare ones - and, obviously, my dearest guest and visitor that you can see in the photo above: the swallowtail. These gorgeous butterflies are now steady guests, and they even laid their eggs on the fennel (which is now a nursery for cute swallowtail caterpillars). So in the end, my mom's will prevailed (as is always the case with the wills of all moms all over the world - don't kid yourselves, kids 😉). My weeds are gone, there now is indeed a flowery meadow - and there's even vegetables (although the fennel is strictly for the swallowtails 😊). I have a creeping suspicion maybe my mom's Italian is better than she lets on...
- Cannibalism Among Common Wall Lizards (Podarcis Muralis)
Acts of cannibalism among common wall lizards are not unusual, but they probably don't occur very frequently in a natural environment. In my experience, the biggest Podarcis muralis males eat pretty much anything they can overwhelm, but in roughly 40 years of observing lizards I've only ever seen one instance of a common wall lizard "doing a Hannibal Lecter" and munching on an individual of its fellow species. This was in May 2022, and although it was quite shocking to see a lizard eating its own kind, I was very happy to have my camera with me and that I was able to get some footage. And I have to admit: as gruesome as it was to watch this reptile devouring its smaller, aahm.. "mate", I always find it comical when a lizard tries to gulp down something that just doesn't fit (although it DID manage to swallow the other lizard whole in the end, except for its tail, which was just too long and remained there hanging out of its mouth like an oversized tongue as you can see in the last photo). But I believe unless there's a severe shortage of other prey like snails, worms and insects in their habitat, it is not common practice among our 4 native lizard species to feast upon each other, and even the much bigger western green lizards (Lacerta bilineata) usually behave quite indifferent towards their smaller cousins, and I often find them basking in the sun together. The scene of cannibalism I captured was very unexpected to me, because I first thought it was a mating ritual. The male grabbed the smaller female by the head and dragged her around for a while, and it looked like he just had her by the wrong end by accident and wanted to mate. But all of a sudden he started biting down on her head viciously and began to swallow her! I only started filming when I realized what was happening, so the beginning is missing, but if you're interested you can watch the film clip here. Because the female is already twisted in her death struggle she looks smaller than she actually was, and the male is exceptionally big and certainly the "giant" in my garden, so I don't know; I guess it IS possible that this was a mating ritual gone wrong by mistake. After all, these reptiles don't have the biggest brains, and once they have something in their mouths, the impulse to gulp it down might occasionally become stronger than the one to procreate ;-)
- Western Green Lizard Central
The western green lizard (Lacerta bilineata) in the gallery below is one of three adult males I encountered throughout May 2021 that apparently share the same territory, an area covering a few hundred square meters that also includes my garden, the narrow road just below and parts of a horse pasture on the other side from that road. At the center of the lizards' considerable kingdom grows a young oak tree which is almost completely overgrown by different types of shrub. The one shrub dominating everything else and covering most of the other bushes and half of the oak tree with a thick carpet of lush green leaves is a beautiful fly honeysuckle whose blossoms attract a wide array of different insects. I knew that "my" western greens liked that bush, but this year I was surprised to find that pretty much the whole Lacerta bilineata population seems to have relocated there. It's become "Western Green Central", so to speak, and the lizards spend large stretches of the day in that bush. It's just across from my pergola on the other side of the road, and I can easily observe my reptilian neighbors from a short distance without disturbing them. The females, of which I counted at least four adults, rarely seem to leave that fly honeysuckle at all; each one of them inhabits a different stretch of the bush, and at least from what I've seen they remain within their fairly small "sections" of shrub without crossing the "borders" to the other ladies' territories, though the largest female does occasionally visit the ground (I'm sure the others do too, I just haven't seen them do it yet). The three males climb around in the whole bush; they seem to "travel" back and forth between the different females, but never at the same time. They clearly try to avoid each other and pick different times of the day to be in the fly honeysuckle. There's also several youngsters that I believe hatched only last summer/autumn; I could tell apart at least two individuals (because one has a very distinct deformed scale on its head), though I believe there's at least half a dozen who are just hard to distinguish because they haven't developed any discernible color patterns yet (they're mostly just brown with yellowish green bellies and throats). It obviously makes sense that "my" lizards colonized that bush; the fly honeysuckle provides them with excellent cover (especially the youngsters and the females blend in so perfectly with its leaves they become virtually invisible); it offers safety from predators that hunt lizards mainly on the ground like cats or green whip snakes, and, perhaps most importantly, there's an abundance of food (even when it isn't blossoming the bush is visited and inhabited by all kinds of spiders, snails and insects, particularly by flies). So most of the photos I was able to take this year were either from animals in that bush or were taken on the ground right next to it. This beautiful male enjoying the morning sun on the leaves of the fly honeysuckle is now the first I'll share here. These were also some of the first photos I was able to shoot of Lacerta bilineata with my new camera (for the nerds among you: it's a Sony DSC RX10 MIV, and I'm very happy with it).
- Western Green Lizard - Alien Food
Our local Lacerta bilineata population - as I have mentioned in other blog posts before - currently resides in a fly honeysuckle shrub that has overgrown a young oak tree. There's many good reasosn why these western green lizards have colonized that bush: it provides safety from ground predators, lots of cover from danger above like hawks, plus the reptiles' natural green camouflage blends in excellently with the thick carpet of leaves that stretches over seven or eight meters. But what I've noticed also is that even before the fly honeysuckle starts blossoming and becomes a virtual bug El Dorado, it already attracts countless insects; especially flies seem to be almost magically drawn to its leaves (one would guess this is also how the plant came by its name ;-). These flies obviously are an excellent food source for the lizards, and as I've come to observe, for juvenile Lacerta bilineata in particular it might even be vital that their prey practically flies into their mouth, and they don't have to move around a lot to find food. The baby lizards are very vulnerable to predators, and they usually remain motionless among the leaves and mostly rely on their brown-green camouflage when danger approaches. Unlike the adults, which flee often long before you even see them, in my experience the youngsters only take flight at the last moment. This makes sense; as long as they don't move, in addition to being nearly invisible they also don't cause any vibrations or noise, and so predators such as snakes, cats or birds of prey would have a very hard time to find them. The baby lizards I was able to observe oftentimes would remain in the exact same spot for hours; they would just wait motionless until an unlucky fly would land on a leaf right in front of their mouths. And then they would only have to do a quick little forwad movement with their head to get dinner - without drawing any dangerous attention to themselves. So the gallery below is dedicated to those flies (all of them photographed on that honeysuckle shrub in May 2021). Apart from being an excellent food source for many animals, these insects are also important pollinators for many plants, and viewed up close they are of a striking alien beauty that never fails to fascinate me.
- Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis Muralis), Description Of The Species
The common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis) is a species of lizard with a wide distribution in Europe. Although it probably wasn't native to the U.K., it has been introduced there in modern times with now several growing populations present in different parts of the country. It has also been introduced to North America where it is sometimes referred to as the "European wall lizard". It can grow to about 20 cm in length, and is a small, thin lizard whose scales vary greatly in color and patterns, as you can see in the photos below. Common wall lizards mainly prey on insects, spiders, snails or worms, but they aren't picky and eat pretty much any creature that is small enough to fit in their mouth (and also the occasional berry). Podarcis muralis often share the same habitat with the much larger western green lizards (Lacerta bilineata), and in case you were wondering how they get along with their bigger cousins, the answer is: it's complicated. Smaller individuals of Podarcis muralis run like hell if they happen to get close to a fully grown western green lizard (because they rightly fear they might get eaten), and even the bigger common wall lizards seem to at least avoid their green neighbors. But it's not uncommon at all to see the commons bask in the sun right next to the bilineatas or even climb over them without any signs of fear. So it might depend on the specific habitat they share, how abundant food is for both species and if it's even possible for them to avoid each other. Common wall lizards do occasionally prey on each other (I witnessed one such incident and filmed it; there's also a photo of the "cannibal" below). What's fascinating also is that Podarcis muralis occur in at least six different morphs, which is not all that common among the same species, let alone within the same habitat. So if you've ever observed dark green individuals with orange bellies and brown ones with nearly white undersides and grey ones that are ornamented with blue "sapphires" on their sides, and you came to the conclusion that those must be the differences between subadults, males and females, the correct answer is in all likelihood: nope. They may all well be around the same age and of the same sex and definitely of the same species: it's just that these lizards apparently have evolved into six different "looks" (which also come with certain other distinctions regarding for example their immune systems; you can read about all that on Wikipedia). In addition to that, there's also regional differences, so I guess it's fair to say that common wall lizards don't like to be all that common and have a knack for colorful variations :-) All the individuals below I photographed in my garden in the Ticino (Switzerland) or its immediate surroundings.
- Western Green Lizard (Lacerta Bilineata): Daily Routine
The Lacerta bilineata in the photo gallery below is one of three adult males that currently seem to rule "my" little western green lizard kingdom. It's by far the most active individual (he is easily recognizable due to a stunted, not quite re-grown tail); in May 2021 I would find him every day patrolling along the borders of his considerable territory, covering pretty long distances in the process (the territory in question is centered around a young oak tree mostly overgrown by a thick carpet of shrub which mainly consists of fly honeysuckle where most of the western greens spend their day; overall the territory includes my garden, parts of the narrow road below it and a stretch of a the horse pasture that starts right where the oak tree grows; overall the area where I observed this particular lizard population measures several hundred square meters). Luckily for me, my reptilian neighbor adhered to a pretty regular "schedule", so after a couple of days I was able to predict where he would show up and when - and I must compliment him for being a very disciplined lizard: As long as the weather was reasonably warm and the sun was out, he always showed up on time :-) As soon as he would spot me - which was unavoidable - our little ritual would commence. I would observe him, motionless, he would observe me (equally motionless), and only once he felt sure I wasn't a direct threat - which initially took up to 20 minutes and later around 5 minutes - he would continue to go about his lizard activities and inspect the neighborhood (though never without leaving my out his sight). But in between exploring his little kingdom I could always count on him returning to the fly honeysuckle bush, because a little heap of cut dry grass right next to the shrub made for such a perfect sun-basking spot that it proved just irresistible. This spot - which was also very popular with another male and one female - is where I was able to shoot the photos you see below (and many in the other galleries in this blog).
- Western Green Lizard Bush Babies
Juvenile western green lizards mostly live, hide and hunt between the leaves of bushes and shrubs, where their excellent camouflage - a brown back and yellowish green underside and face - lets them blend in perfectly with the vegetation. The fly honeysuckle bush just across the road from my garden pergola has always been very attractive to both lizards and flies (maybe hence its name), but this year it seemed to be virtually teeming with life. From ants to wasps to beetles, spiders and flies; there appeared to be hardly a leave that wasn't occupied by some insect or arachnid. And so it came as no surprise that the local Lacerta bilineata population (which previously had chosen my garden as the center of their activities), had relocated there, turning that shrub into what I now refer to as "Western Green Lizard Central". What was a surprise to me though was how many lizards I eventually was able to spot between the thick foliage once I had accustomed my eyes a bit to all those different shades of green and brown and yellow. Apart from the adult individuals (at least three males and four females), there were a number of juvenile Lacerta bilineata in that bush, and although I never saw more than two at the same time, I'm sure there were at least half a dozen (probably more) western green lizard bush babies residing in that fly honeysuckle. The ones I observed remained almost in the exact same spot, sometimes for hours, and only became active when an insect approached - which happened every ten minutes or so. In those instances they would make one quick leap forward to catch their eight- or six-legged victim, gulp it down and just as soon become motionless again, blending in with the leaves and becoming part of the vegetation once more. Below is a selection of baby lizard photos from May 2021, that were all taken of that same bush across the road from my garden.
- Western Green Lizard - Sleepy Head
This juvenile lacerta bilineata is again the same individual that during the second half of May 2021 eventually chose my garden as its habitat and figures so prominently in these galleries. Here I managed to capture the tiny fella underneath the fly honeysuckle bush across the road from my pergola (which is also where I first saw him almost hanging from the leaves like a snake), leaning his sleepy head on the nylon fence guarding the horse pasture below. The lizard baby was obviously very tired (and I think it looks mighty cute here :-) at first using the fence to support the weight of its head and later its tail.
- Western Green Lizard King
The Lacerta bilineata in the photo gallery below is one of three adult males that currently - as of May 2021 - reign over our local western green lizard habitat (which consists of about a quarter of our tiny village). He acted extremely shy towards me, and it took a lot of patience until I was finally able to photograph him. He's a big, impressive fella - the tail is still complete which is rare with older adults - and I estimated his length at around 40-45cm (I guess that the fact that he's so shy is also responsible for him having so far made it through his lizard life unscathed). Despite being very shy towards humans, he is clearly the "alpha" male around these parts (although I don't think that term applies with this species), in the sense that during the one encounter I got to witness between him and one of the other two males, the one with the stunted tail, he was totally "boss" and quickly chased his rival off the premises. The third male - which at first I called "The Phantom" because I only ever caught glimpses of him and later "The Lacertaraptor" because he looks a bit like the veloceraptors from Jurassic Park - I never saw interact with the other males. That secretive reptile gent is extremely cautious and appears to spend most of his time hidden in the fly honeysuckle shrub across from my garden. I only saw him once on the ground, and I would guess he wouldn't want to pick a fight with this big guy here either (but more of him later, when I upload his photos). All of which is to say that the photos below show what currently should count as the "lizard king" in our neck of the woods, and as you can see in the photos below, he has a mighty impressive tongue too (as is befitting for such a "royal" reptile ;-)
- Western Green Zucchini Lizard
The Lacerta bilineata in the gallery below is little more than a lizard baby. The little guy probably hatched sometime in August/September the year before, and you can see the typical pattern of subadult western green lizards is only starting to show a little bit, and he's mostly still wearing the baby colors of the species (meaning: brown back; yellowish green face, throat and belly). The little fella was around nearly every day in May 2021, and he was the only one that seemed to have taken up permanent residence in my garden and had chosen it as his preferred habitat. At first I only ever saw him outside my garden with the other baby lizards in "Western Green Lizard Central" (which is how I refer to the fly honeysuckle shrub across the street from my garden pergola where most of the local Lacerta bilineta population likes to hang out), and in the first photos I took of him - which you can also find in this blog - he's on the leaves of that bush or on the fence next to it. After a couple of days he suddenly appeared in my garden and then showed up every day. The flat stone below the zucchini seedlings was (and hopefully still is) his favorite place; particularly during late afternoon he would bask in the sun there, and once he had enough energy in the tank, he would take off into the grass nearby and hunt every insect that was unfortunate enough to cross his path (I even saw him jump in the air and try to catch a huge hornet once, but - luckily for both I guess - he missed it). Even though he was very shy, after a couple of days he stopped fleeing when I entered the garden as long as I didn't make any hectic movements and kept a certain distance. But unless I managed to sneak up on him, he never left me out of his eye, and you can clearly see by the skeptic looks he gave me that he didn't trust me at all (but at least he didn't seem to view me as an immediate threat :-). He was easily recognizable due to a healed over little wound on his head which resulted in a scale that appeared unusally dark (I have to admit though that I only realized that once I started looking closely at the photos; at first I thought I had photographed several different individuals outside my garden, but most of them turned out to be my new resident).
- Western Green Lizard - Leaf Lizard
This young Lacerta bilineata was one of the first individuals I was able to photograph in May 2021; it also turned out to be my most frequent model. I photographed many - what I believed to be different - baby western green lizards, at first in the fly honeysuckle shrub across the street from my pergola (a shrub otherwise known to readers of this blog as "Western Green Central" ;-), and later in my garden. But when I looked at the photos after a week, I realized that all the photos I was able to shoot in my garden as well as the best ones I took across the street from the honeysuckle bush were actually of the same individual. This youngster has a tiny scale deformity or healed-over wound which resulted in one distintly dark scale on its head, which makes him easily identifiable (once you've noticed it, that is ;-). Here he was almost "hanging" from the honeysuckle leaves a bit like a snake, and although he eyed me very suspiciously he seemed to think I hadn't seen him and remained completely motionless, which allowed me to take some photos from not too far away (young bilineatas often rely completely on their camouflage and only flee at the last moment).
- Western Green Lizard (Lacerta Bilineata): A Look At The Reptile Habitat
Western green lizards' preferred habitats consist of a mix of shrubs and open grassland, and as ectotherms the reptiles love to bask on a nice pile of rocks (or other sun-exposed structures such as piles of wood or low walls) to do their thermoregulation. So I guess after one look at these images it becomes quite obvious why Lacerta bilineata (and other lizards) would feel at home in this reptile paradise :-) By the way, if you look closely, you can spot both a male Lacerta bilineata as well as a male Podarcis muralis in the 4th picture of the first gallery below (the photo right after is the enlarged version of the same shot). The galleries below show you where I shot almost all of the photos on this website: my garden in the beautiful community of Monteggio/Tresa in the Malcantone region of Ticino, Switzerland. These pictures were taken over a period almost 20 years, so there were obviously some changes in the garden during that time, but If you focus on the palm tree (which has grown considerably over the years) and the shed, which remain always in the same spots and are visible in many of the pics, you get a sense of the geography of the place. In summer the micro-climate in this particular area of Ticino can be almost tropical in the sense that it's hot and very humid with frequent thunderstorms and heavy rain, and I often refer to my garden (half-)jokingly as my "little Swiss rain forest". An "old pirate" with only a stump of a tail; this adult male is foraging for snails in the vegetable garden Here you get an impression of the terrain that borders on my garden, a former vineyard that now often serves as a horse pasture, surrounded by a thick canopy of gorgeous, wild forest.
- SUS SCROFA (WILD BOAR) - A stealth midnight visit...
This family of wild boar (sus scrofa) came to visit our little village on several occasions, usually around midnight. Luckily for me they always came through the underbrush which grows right up to the edge of the narrow road below my garden, so I was able to observe them. The animals were extremely shy and always sent a "scout" ahead to make sure the air was clear. The head of the scout pig would emerge from the foliage and sniff around, and a couple of times it seemed to have heard or smelled us, because it would retreat and no more boar would appear that night. But when all seemed safe, the whole family would eventually appear from the thick bushes and head towards a large grass patch that usually serves as a parking lot near the center of the village. Apparently what attracted them was that the ground there was very soft, so they could easily plow through it with their snouts and hoofs in search for such delicacies as worms, snails and insect larvae. The picture quality sadly isn't very good (it was taken with a friend's cell phone), but we were happy to capture them at all, as they would flee immediately at the slightest sound, and we didn't want to risk scaring them away with a flash or my noisy camera.