Desert Spiny Lizard

At first glance, this was just another lizard. I wasn’t close enough to it to see the colors, or the beautiful scales. I just took some pictures, zoomed in to see it closer – but still didn’t appreciate what it looked like until I saw it on my computer screen!

The Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister) is 5.6″ from snout to vent and is a stocky lizard with large, pointed, keeled, overlapping scales. They exhibit metachromatism – they change color depending on the temperature, generally with darker colors in cool temperatures.

This lizard can be found in six western states including Arizona. Comments on the internet suggest that the Desert Spiny Lizard lives quite comfortably around humans – so much so that people name the ones that live in their yard.

This one wasn’t in my yard, but if it was, I might call it Norbert, though Spike might work too. What would you name it?

Spines, Scales and Rocks

Arizona in April – this is what is happening in my back yard:

Arizona

I think this is a Claret Cup Cactus. If it isn’t, it should be because it seems like an appropriate name for it… Wicked thorns though…

How I like claret!…It fills one’s mouth with a gushing freshness, then goes down to cool and feverless; then, you do not feel it quarrelling with one’s liver. No; ’tis rather a peace-maker, and lies as quiet as it did in the grape. Then it is as fragrant as the Queen Bee, and the more ethereal part mounts into the brain, not assaulting the cerebral apartments, like a bully looking for his trull, and hurrying from door to door, bouncing against the wainscott, but rather walks like Aladdin about his enchanted palace, so gently that you do not feel his step.
– John Keats –

Arizona

The Side-blotched Lizard: If you look just behind the top of the front leg, you’ll see a long dark splotch – that is how this lizard got it’s name. These little lizards (4-6 inches or 10-15 cm in length including tail) are numerous, but easily overlooked because of their small size. They blend in well with the rocks and gravel, but are actually quite colorful when seen up close.

Arizona

The male Side-blotched lizard often has bright turquoise blue speckling on the tail, back, and upper surfaces of the hind limbs

Arizona

My yard is covered in a layer of gravel. The previous owner was big on ‘dry-creek bed’ features, so I have a lot of rocks that range in size from ‘pick up and carry around in your pocket’ size to ‘too heavy for me to lift’ size. I’ve been picking out oval shape flat rocks to build a ‘bed of rock daisies’.

Be a little boulder.
– Author Unknown –

Are you a ‘rock hound’? If you have rocks in your yard, are they an important part of the landscape or an inconvenience?

Rosemary, Rabbits and Rattlers

Clump of Rosemary at our Arizona house

This story starts with a large clump of Rosemary. It has apparently become the home of an Arizona Cottontail Rabbit – or I think that is so, since I have seen it (the rabbit) bolt from there on a number of occasions.

Arizona
A Cottontail Rabbit

It is a very handsome rabbit and except for it’s fondness for the leaves of my Torch Glow Bougainvillea, it isn’t what I’d call a pest.

Rosemary leaves

I would have thought the Rabbit would eat the rosemary leaves too, but if it is so inclined, it isn’t making much of dent in the rapidly spreading foliage!

Yesterday, a new dessert occupant appeared on our patio. At first, I thought it was another non-venomous gopher snake. We see them relatively frequently in our yard. However, when the snake finally decided to slither away, I realized that the pointed end of its 3 foot body was suspiciously rattler-like.

I have to admit that I was startled when The Car Guy pointed out that the snake had chosen to come within 15 feet of where I was quietly sitting and reading. It was only 8 feet away from where The Car Guy had been walking back and forth as he worked on a construction project.

The Rattlesnake (probably a Diamond Back) eventually headed into the clump of Rosemary. I don’t wish to think about whether a rattlesnake and a rabbit can enter into a relationship where the rabbit doesn’t become dinner.

The curious thing is, seeing a Rattlesnake on my patio made me want to pack up and head back to Alberta. It’s highly unlikely that there has never been a Rattlesnake on my patio before – it’s just that I’ve never seen one there before. That makes all the difference.

Today, there is NO rattlesnake on my patio, and I’ve ventured out into the yard to do all the spring gardening tasks that need to be done before we head for our Northern home. Of course, I’m extremely more cautious than I was a few days ago. I’m also hopeful that the snake will chow down on the wood (pack) rats that inhabit parts of our yard, then move over to the neighbour’s yard and never visit my patio again.

Question of the day – what would you do if you found a Rattlesnake on your patio? (I went inside and got my camera, of course…)