Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sometimes It Pays To Have A Sharp Eye In The Desert

For instance, if you take a look at the first picture I am posting in this blog, you will probably see what looks like a view off to the side of a mountain trail were run off has cleared the larger debris from around some boulders. If that is what you think you see, well click on the photo to enlarge it and look at it again. Do you see anything else?

What do you mean you don't see anything different? Look closer and focus on the center of the picture. Yes there is a good sized flat rock right about at the center, but don't look at the rock - look on it. You should just about be able to make it out, much as I did while I was passing by along the trail on which I was hiking. Have you spotted it yet. It is a Yarrow's Spiny Lizard - one of the most beautiful lizards in the USA. They have an amazing amount of blue/green in their scales and when the sun shines on an adult male it looks almost like some sort of exotic jewel. Still though, they are not all that easy to see at any distance, heck they are only about 6 inches long - and this was was not highlighted by the sun. I saw it though, and so can you if you peer long enough, or if you look at the next pic.

Yeah, I know, the picture kind of sucks; but the thing is at least now you can see it if you were not able to see it before. When you hike trails here in Arizona, whether they be up in the mountains - like where I took this photo at just above 7,000 feet - or at lower elevations in the desert. it pays to keep a sharp lookout as you walk along. because you can never be quite sure of what you might come upon. Same goes when you are driving.

For instance I was driving down a road out in the middle of nowhere, when I stopped to avoid crushing this creature. Yeah - you have to see yet another of my crappy photos to see what I mean. This time it is not as easy as seeing the lizard was in the first pic above is it! What do you mean you don't see anything but roadway. Yeah that's right it is tough to see, and I was driving at about 35 mph when I saw it, and it was not moving. Not that my eyes are any better than yours but I have sort of trained myself to keep at least one eye on the roadway for such critters. Click on the pic to enlarge it and look closely, you will see the little booger near the center of the pic (hopefully it will enlarge enough). That one is a Tucson Banded Gecko. It's a creature of the night, they come out and hang out on roads to warm up at night since the blacktop retains heat longer than the surrounding ground. Look at it again, then compare its size to the gravel in the blacktop and ask yourself if you would have seen it at that speed. It blends in pretty well when viewed from above like in this photo, but truth be told it kind of stands out when you know what to look for.

Of course there are some other creatures out there in the desert that you do not necessarily need to see first to know that they are there if only because they give you a warning of their presence, well sometimes anyhow. If one of them decides to remain quiet, well then you had best hope that you notice it by way of a sharp eye, otherwise you might feel something else sharp - as in a venom filled fang. This one is a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. You definitely want to know that this guy is nearby before you get too close. While most of them will retreat at your approach, some will not, and you definitely do not want to get tagged by one of them. Their bite can be fatal to an adult human in excellent health let alone someone who has medical problems of any sort. Even if not fatal the bite causes extreme pain, terrible necrosis of the flesh in the bitten area, and can lead to amputation if envenomation occurs. I say IF because not all bites by rattlesnakes envenomate; they can control whether or not they release their venom and dry bites are not all that uncommon. Still though, I would rather keep my eyes open and avoid a bite in the first place. By the way, this one was abut 3 feet, and it did not rattle as I walked over to it to take the picture. It did rattle a little bit when I got closer and prodded it lightly with my walking stick. In fact it made the infamous S-curve with its fore body, rattling and retreating as it did so. Smart snake not wanting to waste venom on a defensive bite when such is much more useful to it to capture dinner.

I would have liked to have been able to have cropped these to better highlight the animals but as things would have it the computer at my hotel does not have photo editing software - neither does the one in my office out here (go figure). So much for not owning my own laptop for travel.

All the best,
Glenn B