Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lizards of the Bay Area

Alligator Lizard

Western Fence Lizard

On a hot day last week, the hottest day of the year so far, we took a stroll around our neighborhood just after sunset to get some fresh air as it cooled.  As we walked along the  sidewalk, we almost stepped on a lizard, an alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata ) like the one in the first photo here. About 8 inches long, it didn't move at first, and sat there as motionless as a stick.  It was probably enjoying the heat stored in the sidewalk from the afternoon sun.  But we were worried it would get stepped on by the next pedestrian that passed (a lot of people go for evening walks in our neighborhood) or worse yet, run out into the busy street just feet away.  So we tried to urge it over to the edge of the sidewalk, next to a grassy area where it could take cover.  Using a stick we tried to gently prod it to safety, but the lizard decided to play dead.  We tried to pick it up with the stick, but it went limp.  We were considering our options when it suddenly ran right under us and, yes, out into the street.

You can see just a bit of his blue belly
The street there is a major thoroughfare, probably 3 cars a minute go by on average, but for some miraculous reason there wasn't a car in sight just then.  We chased the lizard as he ran in a peculiar wiggly fashion clear to the other side of the street and into some brush.  Whew, safe at last.  We went on with our walk, but I kept wondering if it would eventually leave the brush and head back into the street another time. Was it smart enough to dodge cars and feet by itself without our assistance? We may never know unless we see its poor squooshed body one day.

Also a Western Fence Lizard?
Another variety of lizard that we see in the bay area is the Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis).  Some of these have a bright blue belly, like the one in the second and third photos here.  We used to call them 'blue-bellies' when I was a kid.  I found this guy perched on a rock in our backyard a few weeks ago on another sunny warm day.  He took a look over his shoulder at me, and I'm not sure, but I think he winked, too.

The lizard in this last photo is the most common in these parts.  He doesn't have a blue belly, so I always thought these were a different species. But after looking through the photos on the CaliforniaHerps.com web site, I now believe this is just a paler version of the Western Fence lizard.  If someone can help us out and let us know if it is a different species, we would appreciate it.

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