Identifying what you have seen

Reptiles can be difficult to find. Observations of lizards or snakes are often chance encounters and as long as the species can be identified it is well worth recording these.

If you are unsure of the species you have seen the following information may be useful.  Websites like iSpot can also help, particularly if you have been able to take a photograph.  If you are still unsure please get in touch, as there will be clues such as the location of your sighting that will help identify what you have seen.

 Common (viviparous) lizard
Adults grow to 13-15cm.  Markings and coloration are variable but most are brown. Males usually have darker flecks, females often have stripes running along the back. Very occasionally green or black lizards can be found.  Newborn young are very dark, appearing black from a distance.

Newts that have moved from their ponds on to land are often mistaken from lizards. In spite of a general similarity in body shape there are several differences: newts move slowly, they do not have scaly skins, they do not have claws on their toes and they have only four toes on their front feet (common lizards have five).

Slow-worm
Adults grow to 35-40 cm. They are grey or brown. Females and younger and animals generally have darker flanks and sometimes a dark line running along

the back. Some males have small, slate-blue spots. The scales are smooth, giving a polished, metallic appearance. As a lizard, the slow-worm can shed its tail in an attempt to escape a predator. Re-growth of the tail is poor, resulting in short, dark, stumpy tails in some animals.

 

Grass snake
Grass snakes can grow to a large size, some females reaching 90 cm or more, but most are smaller than this. Coloration ranges from dull, olive green to much more vivid shades. Behind the head is a white/cream/yellow collar which is bordered to the rear by contrasting black markings. There is a series of bars running along the flanks and some snakes also have black markings along the back. The distinctiveness of markings varies between animals – some appear uniformly black at a quick glance.

Adder
The adder is a relatively small, stocky snake growing to approximately 60 cm. Adders vary in colour, but they are readily identified by a thick, black or brown zig-zag stripe running all the way along the back. The background coloration of males is generally grey, strongly contrasting with the black zig-zag stripe; females tend to be brown, sometimes chestnut brown. Young adders can also be chestnut brown. Occasionally black adders are found in Suffolk.

 Record your sighting