First Time Visitor

A western diamondback rattelsnake in our backyard in Scottsdale, Arizona on October 11, 2020. Original: _RAC6352.arw

We had a new visitor to the house today, I was working in the backyard when I noticed this lovely western diamondback rattlesnake coiled up by the back fence wall. Since it was in a section far away from the only place it could get out, we called the Phoenix Herpetological Society and soon thereafter someone (our pool person as it turns out) came out to safely relocate it in the desert.

New Arrivals

A desert spiny lizard sits behind the entrance to its new home, it moved into an antelope squirrel's home, taken in our front yard in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2020

I was delighted when an antelope squirrel dug a burrow in the front yard, but its time with us was rather short as I’m fairly certain a bobcat got it. A pair of spiny lizards moved in shortly after, although I didn’t see the female for long. A roadrunner made several attempts at this one on different days and I don’t know if it was eventually successful, as while I didn’t see the lizard for a while there is one around occasionally now, so perhaps it moved on to a better location. Hard to say as there are multiple lizards in the area as some came over to sample the flowers on the bush above this rock. The only way I could tell they weren’t all the same lizard is one was regrowing its tail and one had a missing front leg (it looked like it had learned to live without it just fine).

A desert spiny lizard is partially seen behind a cactus as it sits near the entrance to its home in our front yard in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2020

Time to Leave

The long thin body of a western patch-noses snake lies across the Chuckwagon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2020

I was nearing the end of my hike when I saw a colorful stick lying across the path. At first delighted as I knew it was going to be a new snake species for me, my heart sank as I approached and it didn’t slither off into the grass. Afraid it had gotten run over, I was a bit confused when I saw its head, mostly hidden in the grass (not visible in this picture), as its eyes were open and bright. I laughed to myself, wondering if it was like when we adopt a cat and at first they hide under the bed, only their tail is sticking out giving away their position. The rear of its body covered so much of the trail that I felt I had to convince it to move along as this trail is heavily used by cyclists who wouldn’t likely see it in time to avoid it. I saw a dried yucca stalk in the grass and thought to tap it nearby, but just the sound of pulling the stalk from the grass sent the snake on its way. I whispered my apologies for having to startle it but best to find a safer place to warm up in the morning light.

This was my second snake sighting this year and my first ever of this species. I don’t know my snakes well and initially thought it was some type of garter snake based on its long thin body adorned in stripes, but something about the shape of its head seemed off. Upon closer inspection (in pictures, not in person) it has a large triangular scale at the front of its head, perhaps an aid when looking for reptile eggs to eat.

The head and upper body of a western patch-nosed snake it partly hidden in grass on the Chuckwagon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2020

Rock Climbing

The rattle and black-tail of a black-tailed rattlesnake are visible as it climbs a rock near Granite Mountain in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2020

An aptly named black-tailed rattlesnake goes rock climbing near Granite Mountain in May, a new species for me. From what I’ve read they are relatively laid back but deliver a large dose of venom when they strike. This one was a ways off the trail and I only got partial views as it slowly made its way up the rock pile.

TA black-tailed rattlesnake flicks out its tongue as it climbs a rock near Granite Mountain in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2020

Lizard, Milky White

A side view of a molting ornate tree lizard, taken on the Saddlehorn Trail in the Granite Mountain area of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2018

When we moved to Arizona I was delighted to find lizards but also a bit baffled at identifying them. On my first visit to the Granite Mountain area I encountered a handful of little lizards in one rock formation on the Saddlehorn Trail but was particularly confused by one that, to my eye, looked milky white. When I brought the telephoto lens to my eye I understood my confusion, the little thing was molting and from some angles the dead skin looked white in the morning sun. I was even more surprised when it ran over to where I was standing, if only we could communicate so I could have offered to help remove the larger tufts. It must feel good when all the dead skin is gone!

An overhead view of a molting ornate tree lizard, taken on the Saddlehorn Trail in the Granite Mountain area of McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in May 2018

The World Before Me

An ornate tree lizard perches vertically on a rock face near the summit of Brown's Mountain in McDowell Sonoran Preserve, taken on the Brown's Mountain Trail in September 2019

The sun was just tipping over the horizon this fall as I approached the summit of Brown’s Mountain with an expansive view of the mountains circling my desert home. But as the light spilled across the world at large around me it was the world writ small before me upon which I trained my gaze and my camera’s lens, for I shared that lovely sunrise with an ornate tree lizard scampering about the rock face. I love the scenery here but there is no doubt where my heart lies.