Sunday, May 24, 2009

Zebra-Tailed Lizard

The end of May 2009, I went to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Southern Arizona. I had been there four or five times previously but had never seen a zebra-tailed lizard. This time I saw many. I determined the reason for this was I was there later in the spring, when it was warmer. I was amazed to see them very active in the heat of the day, in the Estes Wash, when it was 95 degrees. They must really like heat.

I have only seen them a few times previously anywhere. Yet they are apparently quite common. I saw a couple of them on a very warm day in the Mecca Hills and I have seen them at the Desert Tortoise Refuge near California City. So I've determined that the reason I've not seen more of them is that I tend to go to the desert in the spring, when it is not as warm.

They are very thin and appear quite frail and wispy. They move around alot and appear quite acrobatic. At times, perhaps when more relaxed, they will have their bodies against the ground
or against a rock.
At times, their bodies are raised high off the ground, their legs extended
and sometimes with their tails in the air.
When about to run, they curl and wag their tails. They run with their tails curled backward over their backs. The underside of their tails are white with black stripes.
Some, like the one below, have an orange spot on their throats.
I found them very wary, and difficult to get close to. However, if patient, and moving closer to them slowly, I found I could get fairly close to them. I did not try to catch one, but I assume that doing so would be difficult.
Seeing them there, and so prevalent, was perhaps my biggest surprise in Organ Pipe.

On April 3, 2010, I went to Carey's Castle with Andrew and Lauren in the southern portion of Joshua Tree National Park. It was pretty warm, about 85 degrees, and we saw quite a few zebra-tailed lizards.
My experience was similar to Organ Pipe. When I was there earlier, but cooler, I did not see any. Those we saw were all in sandy washes.
They are very difficult to see because they blend in so well.
I saw several running on their hind legs with their back tail coiled and up in the air. They are very fun to watch, at least to the extent you can see them. I love the black strip on the back of the thigh on their hind legs.
In April 2011 I actually caught a zebra-tailed lizard in the Hayfield Road area. I examined it for a minute or two before putting it into a pillow case 
and the second I put it into the pillow case it zipped up the sides and jumped out and skeddadled into the distance. I am in awe of their quickness and speed. Here are a few photos I got while holding it, including the colorful underside of the belly, 
the underside of the tail
and curious markings on the underside of the thighs and leg scales.  

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