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Friday, June 21, 2013

A Very Orange-backed San Diego Alligator Lizard

On a walk a few days ago, we discovered an alligator lizard relaxing in the shade near Engineers Road. Due to its geographical location, it would have to be the subspecies of the Southern Alligator Lizard, Elgaria multicarinata webbii (the San Diego Alligator Lizard).

I have never seen one with such brilliant orange on its back as this individual! But after doing a bit of searching on-line, the orange-backed types are not too rare, apparently. Just a genetic variant, although I wonder if it could be environmental (something to do with diet)?

Alligator lizards are masters of the "Intense Stare"!

ALMOST a full view of the orange-backed individual.

For comparison with the lizard above, here is one with a "normal" back coloration (and a MASSIVE appetite!) from near our patio in August of 2010.

Another alligator lizard from our property, which apparently had a dramatic encounter with a predator, from April 2010.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Diversion to the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains: "Scorpion-ville"!

From June 3 through June 6, we spent time camping at Kennedy Meadows in Tulare County. This is an area dominated by sage and other desert-loving shrubs, and Pinyon Pines. The Kern River winds its way through the area.

Where we camped, there were extensive areas of "sand" (really finely grained decomposed granite, or DG), and I noticed many, many small holes in the sand, with a small pile of debris outside of them. After dark, a small creature could be seen at the entrance of some of the burrows, but it would withdraw out of sight when light fell on it, so the creatures and their burrows remained mysteries for a short while. Then, I was able to take a photo from some distance away, and zoom in on the creature in the entryway. It became obvious that it was a scorpion! Also, scorpions were out and about after dark in the sandy areas, especially near my black light which was attracting nice scorpion-prey.

Over a couple days I got quite a few photographs of the scorpions, in and out of their burrows.

This was the first scorpion I saw out of its burrow, near my black light. It is the California Common Scorpion, Paruroctonus silvestrii. Thanks to Kari McWest for this determination.
The same individual as above, with a small moth in range!
The typical resting position in the entryway of a burrow. This is the Swollenstinger Scorpion, Anuroctonus phaiodactylus. Thanks to Kari McWest for this determination.
Another Swollenstinger Scorpion in its burrow.
Three burrows in close proximity on a small embankment. There were easily dozens of burrows near our campsite and surely hundreds (if not thousands) in the region. There were burrows ranging from about an inch in width, to much smaller (perhaps 1/4 of an inch).
The second scorpion I saw out of its burrow. Another Swollenstinger Scorpion. These seemed by far the most common (actually I only observed one California Common Scorpion - despite its name - the one shown above!) This scorpion was sensitive and assumed a threat posture when I leaned in too close for a photo. In my experience, most scorpions do NOT get this agitated in this sort of photography situation.
The scorpion above, in threat-posture.
The same individual as above, at a different angle.
Another Swollenstinger Scorpion seen later, near the edge of the thicker woods. This one did not get agitated when I took this photo.