Shallow Thoughts : tags : lizard

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Wed, 19 Aug 2020

W is for Whiptails

[Maybe a New Mexico Whiptail] Late summer is whiptail season. Whiptails are long, slender, extremely fast lizards with (as you might expect) especially long tails. They emerge from hibernation at least a month later than the fence lizards, but once they're awake, they're everywhere.

In addition to being pretty to look at, fun to watch as they hit the afterburner and streak across the yard, and challenging to photograph since they seldom sit still for long, they're interesting for several reasons.

Read more ...

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[ 19:56 Aug 19, 2020    More nature | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Thu, 30 Jul 2015

A good week for critters

It's been a good week for unusual wildlife.

[Myotis bat hanging just outside the front door] We got a surprise a few nights ago when flipping the porch light on to take the trash out: a bat was clinging to the wall just outside the front door.

It was tiny, and very calm -- so motionless we feared it was dead. (I took advantage of this to run inside and grab the camera.) It didn't move at all while we were there. The trash mission accomplished, we turned out the light and left the bat alone. Happily, it wasn't ill or dead: it was gone a few hours later.

We see bats fairly regularly flying back and forth across the patio early on summer evenings -- insects are apparently attracted to the light visible through the windows from inside, and the bats follow the insects. But this was the first close look I'd had at a stationary bat, and my first chance to photograph one.

I'm not completely sure what sort of bat it is: almost certainly some species of Myotis (mouse-eared bats), and most likely M. yumanensis, the "little brown bat". It's hard to be sure, though, as there are at least six species of Myotis known in the area.

[Woodrat released from trap] We've had several woodrats recently try to set up house near the house or the engine compartment of our Rav4, so we've been setting traps regularly. Though woodrats are usually nocturnal, we caught one in broad daylight as it explored the area around our garden pond.

But the small patio outside the den seems to be a particular draw for them, maybe because it has a wooden deck with a nice dark space under it for a rat to hide. We have one who's been leaving offerings -- pine cones, twigs, leaves -- just outside the door (and less charming rat droppings nearby), so one night Dave set three traps all on that deck. I heard one trap clank shut in the middle of the night, but when I checked in the morning, two traps were sprung without any occupants and the third was still open.

But later that morning, I heard rattling from outside the door. Sure enough, the third trap was occupied and the occupant was darting between one end and the other, trying to get out. I told Dave we'd caught the rat, and we prepared to drive it out to the parkland where we've been releasing them.

[chipmunk caught in our rat trap] And then I picked up the trap, looked in -- and discovered it was a pretty funny looking woodrat. With a furry tail and stripes. A chipmunk! We've been so envious of the folks who live out on the canyon rim and are overloaded with chipmunks ... this is only the second time we've seen here, and now it's probably too spooked to stick around.

We released it near the woodpile, but it ran off away from the house. Our only hope for its return is that it remembers the nice peanut butter snack it got here.

[Baby Great Plains skink] Later that day, we were on our way out the door, late for a meeting, when I spotted a small lizard in the den. (How did it get in?) Fast and lithe and purple-tailed, it skittered under the sofa as soon as it saw us heading its way.

But the den is a small room and the lizard had nowhere to go. After upending the sofa and moving a couple of tables, we cornered it by the door, and I was able to trap it in my hands without any damage to its tail.

When I let it go on the rocks outside, it calmed down immediately, giving me time to run for the camera. Its gorgeous purple tail doesn't show very well, but at least the photo was good enough to identify it as a juvenile Great Plains skink. The adults look more like Jabba the Hut nothing like the lovely little juvenile we saw. We actually saw an adult this spring (outside), when we were clearing out a thick weed patch and disturbed a skink from its hibernation. And how did this poor lizard get saddled with a scientfic name of Eumeces obsoletus?

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[ 11:07 Jul 30, 2015    More nature | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Fri, 29 Jun 2012

A fierce alligator lizard

[Young and fierce alligator lizard]

A short hike today to Lake Ranch above Los Gatos gave us nice views of three killdeer, a duck family with six ducklings, a hunting egret and a host of other birds. But on the way back, we met an unusual little fellow on the trail.

It was a young alligator lizard, one of the smallest I've seen -- which is still fairly sizeable for a lizard, maybe eight or ten inches long including the long slim tail.

In typical alligator lizard fashion, it was lying motionless on the trail. So in typical Dave and Akkana fashion, we whipped out our cameras and switched into macro mode.

Alligator lizards are normally very placid. It's hard to get them to move under any circumstances, as long as you don't touch them. You can shoot photos from all angles, get the camera right up where you have to shoot a panorama to get the whole tail in, move around to the other side and get a different angle, and the lizard won't move.

Imagine our surprise, then, when the little one opened its mouth and started threatening us!

Dave pulled back his camera (it's his a new toy, so I was letting him shoot the up-close macros while I stayed what I thought was a comfortable foot away) and the beast turned on me and started advancing, mouth still open. I snapped a few shots while pulling back slowly. Then he made a rush for me.

I pulled my camera, and fingers, up out of his reach -- supposedly alligator lizards can bite, though it's hard to see any evidence of teeth in the photos -- and he rushed my shoes. I lifted the foot he was headed for, and he darted under my shoe, turned on a dime and skittered toward Dave's hiking shoe. But I guess when he got there he didn't find it quite as vulnerable as he'd hoped, so he turned again and ran off toward the side of the trail, leaving us stunned -- and doubled over with laughter. [Young and fierce alligator lizard]

I actually tried to shoot a video of his advance, but once he rushed me I was too busy getting out of his way and missed most of the action. Evidently I'm not quite ready to shoot those National Geo documentaries.

That's a bit of dry leaf on his forehead, in case you're wondering.

Here's what Dave was doing that got the little lizard annoyed. The adult alligator lizards we see don't mind that a bit ... honest!

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[ 22:01 Jun 29, 2012    More nature | permalink to this entry | comments ]