This is the final post in our little Lizard Run of December 2012 on Dust Tracks. After this post, we’ll head back to Georgia and play a bit with local fauna and also probably also the birds of the southeast (likely with some Alaskan birds thrown in for kicks).
So, what do we have here? I’m pretty sure these are Side-blotched lizards, Uta stansburiana. They were photographed in The Needles district of Canyonlands National Park on 09 June 2011. During my 2011 trip from Alaska to Florida, I spent longer periods of time in certain areas, hiking about and exploring. Southern Utah was one of these regions and Canyonlands was the one park I spent the most time at (coupled with neighboring Arches National Park). At Needles, I spent a good length of time hiking through the jagged landscape in search of such lizards.
Now, as with most of my western lizard spottings, I’m not necessarily 100% positive of my identifications. The individual featured below, as an example, may or may not be Uta stansburiana, though I am fairly confident the first/top individual is. I simply don’t have very much experience or deep knowledge of these western lizard species and identifying them can be rather difficult. Males of this species are quite different than females and, to make it all more complicated, there are apparently three dominant color morphs within the males alone. In other words: you need some experience to easily differentiate and identify these species by sight alone. You need to get your hands on them and record measurements, scale counts, and so on, unless you’ve got enough experience to make the subtle distinctions by sight alone. In my case, I was simply hiking, watching, and photographing — and, as a Florida kid moving back southeast from Alaska, I certainly didn’t have any such previous experience in southern Utah. It was all new to me.
There are more than a few places I’d like to “get back to” in my life, but Canyonlands ranks very, very high on that list. I spent two days in the area and feel like I barely caught a glimpse of the region’s offerings. One could spend a week in the Needles District alone and not come close to understanding the ecological complexity of that one section of Canyonlands. That’s essentially how I felt during my two day visit, in real time. I knew I was only getting a taste of the area. Just a glimpse. And of all the lizards I encountered during those two days, the turquoise-spotted male side-blotched lizards were among the highlights. They were truly something special. Tiny organic accents in a vast, alien, and sublimely beautiful landscape.
Next on Dust Tracks: Georgia, baby!
Soundtracking: Audra Mae’s EP, Haunt (SideOneDummy Records, 20 October 2009). Originally from Oklahoma, Audra Mae has a smoky, beautiful, and –pardon the unintended pun– haunting voice. Her Haunt EP is remarkably fantastic. “The River,” my favorite track on the EP, tells the story of a young woman drowning in religious judgment and sexual guilt. She decides to flee her parents’ judgment by drowning herself in a local river — a baptism of suicide and an escape from her community’s wrathful judgment. It’s a devastating track, as they all are in their own ways.