Tag Archives: Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus)

Warm company

Yesterday I took a walk around our largest pasture, a space that is half woods and half prairie.  My primary mission was to look for a fallen tree in case it landed on the fence (something I heard around 2:30 AM that morning but couldn’t definitively locate by sound).  My secondary mission, of course, was to take pictures and enjoy nature.

Unfortunately for me, the jaunt came after heavy rain and on a moderately cool day and on a very windy day.  I had little hope of seeing much other than flowers and fungi, perhaps even the occasional arthropod, the latter being mostly comatose given the temperature.

Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) (20140408_09848)

To my surprise, I had a good deal of warm company no matter where I looked.  That company came in the guise of Texas spiny lizards (Sceloporus olivaceus).  Mostly males, these reptiles seemed to be out in force occupying every sunny spot available.

Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) (20140408_09865)

They didn’t welcome my company, of course, but they likewise didn’t rush away just because I appeared.  After all, scampering about served only to remove them from open spots in sunlight.

Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) (20140408_09881)

A few butterflies[1] and a few caterpillars couldn’t fill the long walk, and the flowers and fungi are ubiquitous and thus things I have seen and photographed on a regular basis[2].  Thus it was with great pleasure that I welcomed the warm company of these lizards, even if they weren’t exactly thrilled with my invasion of their sunbathing moments.

Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) (20140408_09889)

Despite my lack of activity of late[3], herein lies a bit of what’s to come.  Or at least a bit of the warm company I enjoyed yesterday.

Oh, and the fallen tree was beyond the pasture.  The only thing I found on the fence was a sapling about 15 feet/5 meters tall.  And I removed it without difficulty.  Apparently the big tree I heard fall was one well beyond our property.

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  1. We have been mindful of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus).  Given the precarious situation they’re in—likely to be wiped out in the next decade at most—we’ve allowed all manner of milkweed to grow around the farm.  And we’ve been watchful for their presence.  Yesterday I saw two across the expanse of a multi-acre pasture.  Sad, yes, but still hopeful.
  2. For the other tidbits I saw and photographed and didn’t present here, you can expect to see them in an upcoming post.
  3. I’ve been busy of late with tasks about the family farm, not to mention the rebuild of my laptop—going from Windows to Linux.  I’ll share a bit later about my experience on the Linux upgrade.

A few of our innumerable critters

I often despise Texas for its backwoods politics, its heat and humidity, its terrible environmental record, its whore’s relationship with petroleum, and its destruction of habitat resulting in the extinction or endangerment of more plants and animals than you can shake a stick at.  But the flip side of that coin is that Texas

  • is second only to California in overall biodiversity.
  • has more bird, reptile and butterfly species than anywhere else in the U.S., and only California has more mammal and plant species.
  • hosts 99.9% of the eastern population of monarch butterflies on their autumnal and vernal migrations, and provides the nursery for spring’s first generation of these insects as they move north from Mexico and begin repopulating the area east of the Rocky Mountains.
  • ranks third in the nation for the number of species unique to the state.
  • has 126 vertebrate species found nowhere else on the planet (out of 1,245 total species).
  • has more wild cat species than anywhere else in North America.
  • has more bird species than anywhere else in North America, with more than 620 species and subspecies that overwinter, migrate, breed and nest, and/or reside in the state.
  • contains upwards of 30,000 insect species, though the total number is unknown since insects represent more than half the planet’s total biomass.
  • ranks fifth in the U.S. for the total number of amphibian species.
  • has 11 identifiably distinct ecological regions.
  • is home to more than 5,500 plant species, of which 426 occur nowhere else on the planet.
  • provides winter refuge for the world’s last remaining 100% wild migratory flock of whooping cranes, which also happens to be North America’s largest flock of this critically endangered species.
  • contains the only natural mixing ground for many eastern and western species that otherwise do not cross the Rocky Mountains.

Needless to say, one can ignore the many anthropocentric and anthropogenic shortcomings of this state when one considers the natural magic found within its borders.  So imagine what spell cloaked me as I waltzed through my photo collection and marveled at how I too often ignore the dance of many reptiles and amphibians who live so near.

Sure, I’ve posted plenty of anoles and geckos and alligators and snakes—though not as many as I’d like—but imagine my dismay at stumbling over a veritable horde of critters who make this a great place to live: the diverse group of toads and frogs and lizards filling every available ecological niche.

Consider this a sample of what lives here that I’ve never shown before.  And aren’t they a beautiful sampling of the goodies inhabiting the vast expanse of Texas…

A Rocky Mountain toad (a.k.a. western Woodhouse’s toad; Bufo woodhousii woodhousii) hiding in a shallow stream (20080727_10229)

A Rocky Mountain toad (a.k.a. western Woodhouse’s toad; Bufo woodhousii woodhousii) waiting patiently in a shallow stream.  Waiting for what?  For me to leave, of course!  It had been resting patiently on a rock until I meandered up and intruded upon its cloudy day.  Only then did it take a wee dip in the water so it could watch me.

A juvenile five-lined skink (a.k.a. blue-tailed skink or red-headed skink; Eumeces fasciatus) resting on landscape timbers (20080809_10588)

A juvenile five-lined skink (a.k.a. blue-tailed skink or red-headed skink; Eumeces fasciatus) emerged from its verdant cover so it could grab what little light a cloudy sky offered.  Resting atop old railroad ties that serve as landscape timbers, this young lizard never flinched and never reacted to my presence.

A northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans) hiding in the grass (20080921_12719)

No larger than my thumbnail, this northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans) caught my attention not because it moved as I walked by, but rather because it seemed lacking in the green so virulent around its position.  I had to stop and look at what might be there.  Thankfully I did.  Thought I admit it vanished into the ground cover as soon as I snapped the first image.

A southern leopard frog (Rana sphenocephala) sitting beneath some bushes (2009_04_16_015463)

I hate using flash for any picture.  Nevertheless, I had to so I could capture the visage of this southern leopard frog (Rana sphenocephala) who hid in the dark recesses of brush along a creek’s edge.  Only by stumbling down the embankment could I even see it, and only by the light of the camera’s flash could it be photographed.  And once the flash went off, the frog disappeared further into thicket I couldn’t enter.

A Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) resting in the sun (2009_05_22_020678)

Beneath coniferous cover and beside some kind of storage tank I couldn’t recognize, this Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) scrambled into daylight just long enough to look at me, to evaluate my threat, to consider my disposition.  Once it felt certain I wasn’t hunting, it scampered along in pursuit of one of its brethren.

A ground skink (a.k.a. little brown skink; Scincella lateralis) huddled at the base of a tree (2009_07_06_026106)

Growing back its tail that no doubt served as a diversion so the lizard could escape from a predator, this ground skink (a.k.a. little brown skink; Scincella lateralis) huddled near the base of a tree one evening and was all but invisible in the waning light.  Passersby thought me insane as I stood in near darkness snapping photos of what seemed like nothing more interesting than tree roots.

A tiny baby toad perched on the edge of a sidewalk (2009_07_25_027794)

A little toad (unidentified) hopped upon the sidewalk as I walked by.  For scale, the distance from the toad’s position to the brown gravel below is about one inch/two centimeters.  Needless to say I oohed and aahed as I knelt nearby and looked at this minuscule life who seemed small enough to blow away in the next gentle breeze.

A northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans) resting in soft morning sunlight (2009_09_26_029186)

Another northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans) froze atop a dead leaf so I wouldn’t see it.  Too late.  Thankfully this one played stoic while I stumbled about in the early morning light trying to find the best view.  Sunlight dappling through the dew-covered grass made for a perfect shot.