Monday, August 10, 2009

Leapin’ Lizards!

     In addition to the wrens, the quail, the blue jays, and Bandit the squirrel, I have a family of blue-bellied lizards that have lived with me since I moved in. Perhaps it would be better to say I moved in with them.

     I first noticed them when I moved in years ago and was working on the lawn. It started with a large black lizard that would follow me from the front to the backyard. It seemed he was curious about what I was doing. Peeking around the corners, he followed me back and forth all day. Soon, there were two, and then three lizards ranging in color from black to tan to light-gray, all keeping tabs on my activities.

     Now some are afraid of lizards. Not me. I grew up in Nevada, and it was a favorite pastime to catch them. If you get too close, they might also start their “lizard push-ups” – that is them saying to you, “Okay, you think you’re gonna take me? Bring it on chump! I’ll fight you with one claw tied behind my back! You ever see Jurassic Park, fool?!” They are tough to catch and have detachable tails as a final emergency escape. All too often you chase them and end up with only their tail in your hand.

     Their final line of defense if caught is to play dead. We would catch them and then open our palms, and they would lie there as long as you stroked their belly; when you stopped (and they realized there was no immediate danger from this huge predator) they would “wake up” and scamper about.

     They get their common name from the males who have iridescent blue stripes on their bellies often bordered with black or tan. They can also have the same beautiful blue on the scales of their throats. The females have no underbelly coloration. Their scientific name is “Western Fence Lizard”. They occasionally bite, but they do not have teeth, rather a bony plate that has the texture of sandpaper; it does not really hurt, but it can surprise and startle you.

     Over the years, there have tiny baby lizards every spring and three or four stick around the old homestead. I always welcome them and tell them I knew their parents and grandparents very well. One assumes the others set out to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood. None of them seem afraid of me, but all of them are curious. If I go out onto the patio to barbeque in the summer, within minutes, a tiny reptilian head or two pops up over the edge of the cement to watch me.

     What I appreciate the most about my lizards is they love to eat ants. We do not have a lot of problems with flying insects like mosquitoes in the high desert, but we have lots of ants. As soon as the ants open a new hole in the dirt, there the lizard family is, enjoying the new location of the Lizard Buffet.

     Want to see these adorable lizards up close? Watch this video to see a blue-bellied lizard with beautiful markings pretending to sleep after being captured:


  1. Oh, they remind me of the lovely lizards we used to have on our patio on holiday in Spain. Aren't they wonderful creatures!

  2. They do look like very curious little guys and smart too. I wonder why they are not more afraid?

  3.      I'm careful about where I walk, and I've never chased them, so they probably feel safe in the yard.

         I would swear they also have a sense of humor. I might not see them all day, but one always manage to streak past when my partner sets foot outside the door. Of course, it doesn't help that I'm always laughing hysterically at his reaction.


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