Thursday, August 01, 2013

When a Fence Lizard and an Alligator Lizard Meet

When you're traveling, discovery comes easily. But wilderness in our own backyards and neighborhoods can offer discovery as well.

I went out this morning looking for something unexpected and two lizards found me. 

Lizards in my yard are not unexpected. Western fence lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis) have become abundant over the last 10 years. This year we have already seen at least three new babies. The more native California vegetation we have, the more we attract native insects and the greater the resources for the lizards.

Alligator lizards (Elgaria multicarinata) like the one pictured above, have been resident in our yard since we moved in 19 years ago. But I have never seen these two lizard species interact. 

Fence lizards are sun lovers, frequently basking out in the open. They communicate with each other visually with displays of head bobbing and revealing their blue chests. The alligator lizards, on the other hand, are shy creatures slipping through the shadows and feeding into the night on warm summer evenings.

This morning I happened upon an adult western fence lizard and a sub-adult alligator lizard. The fence lizard was trying to chase the alligator lizard out of its territory. The alligator lizard (about the girth of a pencil and 7"-8" long) took refuge on a branch in a bush about a foot off the ground. It turned, like its namesake, with an open mouth and hissing. It tried to scare off the fence lizard.

It was a miniature primeval world moment - wild lizards unencumbered by the actions of people. I ran to get the camera, but only got a picture of the fence lizard. While the fence lizard is primarily an insect eater, a larger alligator lizard could prey on the two-inch-long western fence lizard hatchlings. 

If you just take a moment to observe, you'll be surprised what you can discover close to home. This August Discover yourself.

(Australian wild lizards, Turkish wild lizards)


Rebecca A. Maynard said...

The plantings are pretty low maintenance; just a quick tidy up and the addition of some compost would get this garden started in the spring. A good layer of mulch would keep the area fairly weed-free.
white vinyl fence

Anonymous said...

I saw an interesting situation today in my California backyard garden. The fence lizard had a baby alligator lizard in its mouth. Whether it was a convenience kill or a way to reduce being prey to the adult alligator lizard in the future will never be known.