You might be surprised to learn that even in built up environments you can find animals like blue- tongue lizards living happily in suburban backyards.
The suburban blue-tongue lizard
In our garden, over the space of a year, I have encountered as many as seven individual blue-tongue lizards and photographed them. Some of these animals have been residents of the backyard (I've either photographed them numerous times, or discovered them using the same refuge for weeks or months at a time). Others may use the yard as a natural corridor; passing through whilst they search for food or mates.
Being ectothermic (cold-blooded) you are unlikely to see them during the colder months. But in the Spring, I see more individuals and generally encounter them frequently with the most active months being August and September. This also coincides with the breeding season. Most years we are lucky enough to see baby lizards in January.
It's a terribly rewarding experience to discover wildlife such as lizards living in your backyard. And so, here are my 5 tips on how to create a backyard habitat suitable for the blue-tongue lizard.
1. Provide them cover
These lizards have long heavy bodies with short stumpy legs, and so they simply cannot move with great agility or speed. Give them a fighting chance against a quicker more agile predator by providing them with plenty of cover.
Shelter them with dense planting your garden beds. Mulch and deep leaf litter is not only good for the garden, but also great for secretive blueys. Provide hides with hollow logs, but please don't collect these from natural areas. Keep in mind too, that a great refuge doesn't always have to be natural, half overturned terracotta pots or a bit of plumbers pipe buried with the ends exposed work very well as hidey holes and tunnels for lizards in your garden.
2. Feed them
I'm not suggesting you leave food out for lizards, but if your garden has plenty of plants and good soil, you almost certainly have insects, worms and snails, yum! Fruit bearing trees will also encourage lizards and other wildlife. A word of advise, if you don't want the lizards getting all the good strawberries, grow them in a tall pot.
I am a firm advocate for organically grown, and would encourage everyone to garden without chemicals. Fertilisers, poisons and baits are destructive elements to use in the garden, and can harm and kill insects and the animals that eat them, including blue-tongue lizards.
3. Warm them up
Lizards are ectothermic and will habitually seek out heat sources. Have you ever seen a turtle basking on a rock? It's not trying to improve it's tan, but rather using the sun's energy to warm its body. Lizards often do the same thing. Put a nice flat rock in a part of the garden that gets some morning light and you might be rewarded with basking lizards that are a joy to behold.
Other sources of heat may come from decaying matter such as deep litter or a rotting compost heap. Their thermal requirements, will lead blueys to various parts of the garden. We once had a small blue tongue lizard domiciled between the house and the hot water system. It lived there for almost a year, before eventually outgrowing the space.
4. Offer a drink
Have you ever heard the saying, flat out like a lizard drinking? Boy can these lizards down a coldie! For those of you who haven't seen a bluey having a glug, their tongue is much like a dogs as it laps and laps and laps water. Especially on a hot day a lizard will gratefully have a drink from a small tray of water left on the ground in a place close to a refuge. If you have a pond or a planning one, ensure the sides are not too steep as plenty of thirsty lizards (and other wildlife for that matter) fall into ponds and pools with smooth sides and are drowned.
5. Watch out for them
There can be hazards for lizards in the garden too. Dogs and cats can easily dispatch lizards in the garden, so be mindful and investigate when your dog starts barking suddenly, you might just save a life! When mowing long grass, it's best to walk through it and check for animals that may be hiding. Before backing your car, it's a good habit to check that there are no sunning lizards on the driveway, and while I'm on the topic of cars, generally avoid running anything over on the road. Often lizards and snakes can look like twigs, or a bit of old rubber.
A garden is a much more interesting place when you know you might spy a blue-tongue lizard shuffling, nose down through the leaf litter. And so, with these 5 easy tips we're confident you'll
encourage a true blue little aussie; the blue-tongue lizard into your very own backyard.