Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Lizard's Old Skin

Treasures come in many shapes and sizes, and this one, the shed skin of a backyard lizard, is quite a prize indeed! We found it tucked away in a stack of oak logs that we piled up behind the house and decided to move. Amazingly, the skin is intact, down to the tiny and well articulated feet. How did the lizard extricate itself from the old skin? Half way down its body, about where the body begins to taper out to the tail, there is a small but obviously sufficient hole on the top--visible in this photo--through which it must have slithered out.

Most likely, this reptile is one of the common coastal range fence lizards that we often see scooting around. But it's about three times the size of the most populous residents of our yard, a testament no doubt to its ability to survive the many predators abounding. Long live the lizard king!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Snake with a bulge

We were walking to a nearby open space when we came across this garter snake, perhaps a coast garter snake (Thamnophis atratus zaxanthus) at the edge of  the trail near a perennial creek.  A big lump bulging just a couple of inches past its head told us that it had just eaten a tasty critter. We came across the snake too late to see dinner consisted of, but there are lots of mice and voles in the area.  It was sitting motionless at first, but as we watched we noticed it convulsing slowly and surely, moving dinner down the digestive tract.  We watched for about 20 minutes or so and the bulge moved a good 8 inches during this time.  In between movements, the snake stayed still, doing the work of digestion.

See the bulge just south of the stick?

Then in the wink of an eye it raced off and into the creek.  End of show.