A lizardy day

The weather was nice today (Sunday 4-22-12); sunny but not too hot, so I spent a couple hours over at my parents’ house today wandering around the yard looking for critters like I used to do when I was kid. Only this time I was armed with a camera instead of a jar or coffee can, intending to capture images rather than bodies. My target was the host of lizards that have taken up residence in my parents’ yard; specifically Western fence lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis).

When I  was a kid used to find all sorts of invertebrates, miscellaneous insects (of course), solifugids (“sun” or “wind scorpions”) and one time I even found a tarantula (probably a Aphonopelma; I damn near stepped on it while running through the back yard).

As for vertebrates I often found Slender salamanders (Batrachoseps) and the feisty Southern alligator lizard (Elgaria) but never any fence lizards. To find them I had to hike three quarters of a mile or so to an undeveloped area dominated by a rocky hill (a modest pluton locally known to us a “Lionshead”) where they were fairly abundant amongst boulders of decomposing granite.

This is not the case anymore.

I had noticed on previous visits that the fence lizards were around my parents’ yard but today I realized that the place was absolutely crawling with them. I have no idea what has changed in the environment that has led to an expansion of their range, from the hills and undeveloped areas to the middle of the suburbs, but personally I’m glad of it.

At first they played a little hard to get. It was already afternoon and while it wasn’t really hot it was warm so their metabolizes were no doubt running at nearly at mammalian levels. So they would dash for cover before I got too close.

This little one was hiding behind some old window screens at the back of the garage. It had a larger companion who was missing part of its tail, however I couldn’t get a picture of it.

Another little one hiding behind the barn.

This probable female make her home on a woodpile in the back yard was really nervous. It took me several tries to get close enough for a photo.

This wasn’t a little guy, but a full sized adult male hanging out on an old bit of dead palm tree in far back field of my parents’ back yard. The picture doesn’t really do justice to its color which appeared much more green in sunlight. However I have a second picture of this one that makes up for whatever this one might lack.

As I got closer this guy turned sideways toward me and started doing his little push-up display at me exposing his beautiful iridescent blue belly and throat scales (which is were the common name “blue bellies” comes from) to my camera.

Here we have a “teenager”, perhaps a young female (no signs of faint blue scales), perched on concrete shard at the base of a palm tree.

This one was another fully grown adult and likely female (notice she only has a faint blue spot on her throat) hanging out on a succulent plant.

Another young’un, relaxing on a rock in the front yard.

This young lady lorded over the front yard from high atop her horse hitch perch.

When I got too close she led me on a merry chase around the drive way and ended up running right back up the horse hitch again.

On the other side of the driveway another young lady eyed me warily from an old tree stump. Once again the picture doesn’t do her green color justice.

Another little one just two feet away from the last.

Finally a good shot of the beautiful turquoise back scales of a good sized (possible) female.

Well, I had fun even it the lizards were a bit annoyed by the funny looking monkey chasing them around with a silver and black rock in its paws.


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