Little Lovely

A common side-blotched lizard warms itself in the sun on a rock along the Coyote Canyon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

I hope there are little things in your life that bring you as much joy as these tiny lizards bring to me. The common side-blotched lizard is the lizard I see most although they can be difficult to photograph because of their small size. Most of the time I just watch them sunning themselves or scurrying about and am thankful they are there, and I with them.

Objects in This Lens May Be Further Than They Appear

A Mojave rattlesnake sticks out its tongue as it crosses Brown's Ranch Road in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

This Mojave rattlesnake appeared large in the viewfinder but was a safe distance away when I began to photograph it. Even so, as it crossed the trail and started moving steadily towards where I was (having given it a wide berth and gone off-trail to let it choose its path), I pulled the camera away from my eye occasionally to get a clear view of how far away it actually was. It was well aware of me and headed over to my right so I sat still until it chose a bush to curl up under, then I continued up the trail.

The Last Leap

A dead lizard, its separated tail beside it, is swarmed with ants along the Watershed Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

I came across this flattened lizard (a tiger whiptail I think) and took some time deciding if I was going to photograph it or not. Finally I changed lenses and took a picture as a tribute to this once beautiful creature as ants swarmed the lifeless body. The lizard had shed its tail, now lying beside it, in an unsuccessful attempt at saving its life. The trail is heavily used by mountain bikers so perhaps it wasn’t able to get out of the way of a bike or perhaps a predator killed it but got scared off before it could eat its meal. Or perhaps a hiker stepped on it, someone once stepped on a newt I was photographing (fortunately the ground was soft and the newt unharmed).

Sorry little one.

An Unexpected Dilemma

A Mojave rattlesnake crawls across the desert near Brown's Ranch Road in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I haven’t hiked as much the past month as I’ve been too tired to get up before sunrise and drive to the trails, usually only hiking once per weekend. I didn’t go at all last weekend because some chronic health issues flared up but after sleeping in yesterday this morning I was back on the trails and met this lovely Mojave rattlesnake, a new species for me. But it presented me with a dilemma I hadn’t expected.

It was at the edge of a wide trail and we saw each other from a distance so I was able to leave the trail and give it a wide berth, but a couple of mountain bikers came around the bend and I didn’t know if I should try to warn them. I didn’t have much time to decide and my hunch was they would be best to pass at speed, I figured the snake would leave them alone and in any event the trail was so wide they could stay out of striking range. I was afraid if I tried to flag them down they’d slam on the brakes and end up near the snake and possibly make the situation worse.

Neither of them saw the snake and passed close by but thankfully the snake hunkered down each time and they continued down the trail unaware. The rattler relaxed and made its way across the trail towards me. It wasn’t being aggressive so I backed up even further and let it choose its path, taking a few pictures as it slithered over to a dense bush and curled up in its shade. I’ll have to ask some riders what they would have wanted me to do, some people really dislike snakes so perhaps ignorance is bliss if the likelihood of an attack is quite low.