Category Archives: Utah

Uta stansburiana (Side-blotched Lizard), 09 June 2011

Uta stansburiana

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.

Uta stansburiana

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!

album-audramaehauntSoundtracking: 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.

Sceloporus tristichus (Plateau Lizard), 10 June 2011

Sceloporus undulatus tristichus

This is an identification that should be taken with a grain of assault, or grain of salt, or whatever that old saying is. Heh. As best I can tell, I think this might be a Plateau lizard, Sceloporus tristichus. I’ve also seen this classified as a subspecies of S. undulatus, the fence lizard. I’m tagging it as Sceloporus tristichus, but I wouldn’t set my watch and warrant on it — not without confirmation from another more In-The-Know!

Regardless of the identification, this was a damn fine lizard. I spotted the little armored transport of awesomeness chilling out in a spot of shade near Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park. I was able to get quite close for some photos, but never managed to get my hands on the wee tank. After I snapped a few macro shots of the face, the lizard scampered across the red rock and dirt and quickly disappeared. As they seem to often do.

So, what do you think? Plateau lizard? Or something else entirely? Do tell, do tell!!! If you’re interested in the identification hunt, here’s a similar lizard from the same area. Back in August 2011, reader Shotgunner voted for female tristichus on that one.

Sceloporus undulatus tristichus

~ janson

Aspidoscelis velox (Plateau Striped Whiptail), 09 June 2011

Aspidoscelis velox

I’m a bit delayed, but here’s the second post for today. It’s another member of Family Teiidae, the whiptails! Rah! This is, I believe, a plateau striped whiptail, Aspidoscelis velox, photographed near Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah on 09 June 2011. I saw the little rascal near highway 211, a short distance from the formal national park grounds. I had just enough time to snap this uber-sloppy photo before the whiptail high-tailed it outta there and disappeared into the brush.

I was struck by how similar this species was to the six-lined racerunner (Cnemidophorus sexlineatus). Awhile back I went through national park registries of known lizard species and the plateau striped whiptail was the closest match I found. With that being said, I am *not* confident of this identification until somebody confirms it! It’s my best guess, but it is —in the end— just a guess.

Now, if you think the whiptails could be confusing (and I do), tomorrow’s going to be really fun. Tomorrow we’re dipping into the lovely well of Sceloporus!

~ janson

Aspidoscelis tigris (Western Whiptail), 10 June 2011

Aspidoscelis tigris

Today I’m itching to get back to some of the Utah lizards I encountered in June of 2011. For the most part, I was a complete newbie —aka “noob,” for you younger folken— to these species when I rolled through Utah and Arizona en route from Alaska to Florida. Though snake activity was rather low during that trip (just one desert patch-nosed snake), the lizards were out and they were out in force.

Most of those lizards were entirely new to me. Clamoring about central and southern Utah, as well as a great deal of Arizona, I was constantly finding myself observing nameless lizards, lizards I simply didn’t know — something I simply wasn’t used to in the field when it comes to lizards. So, with that in mind, please note that these identifications should be considered tentative at best. I’m still not entirely confident of them, as I’ve had very little experience with these lizards and I’ve never shared these fields with one more In-The-Know than myself.

This rather content, basking lizard is, I believe, a Western whiptail, Aspidoscelis tigris. It was photographed just south of Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park. There were a good number of these around Canyonlands National Park, but not so much at nearby Arches National Park. They reminded me of very large six-lined racerunners in their behavior: quick to bask and even quicker to flee. If my identification is correct, this makes sense because Western whiptails and Six-lined racerunners are parthenogically situated in Family Teiidae: the whiptails and racerunners. They’re cousin species, so to speak, genetically.

Later today (and tomorrow): More cool-ass, shadily-identified Utah lizards!

~ janson

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah; 11 June 2011

Bryce Canyon National Park was one of many, many memorable stops during my 2011 solo-drive from Alaska to Florida (see an index of AK2FL posts here). I finally came to Bryce Canyon on Day 12 of the trip (mile 4604), after having already spent a few days in Utah around Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef National Parks. Indeed, by the time I left Bryce Canyon on 11 June and made my way into Arizona later that evening, I was pretty well-convinced that southern Utah is far, far beyond ridiculously awesome. The place is divinely epic in its scope, scale, and grandeur.

I didn’t actually spend too much time at Bryce Canyon and mostly patrolled the park’s higher elevations for brief little excursions and photo angles. I’d just spent several days hiking Canyonlands and Arches quite heavily and was in a bit of sensory overload. I’m not sure quite what I expected from Bryce, but it sure made an impression. It’s definitely a place I’d like to return to — and next time I’ll leave the pavement behind. The views from atop of the canyon ridges are extraordinary, of course — but can you imagine how cool it must look from down below…? Looking up at those gorgeous hoodoo spires?

~ janson

AK2FL One Year Later: Utah

Canyonlands National Park, Utah. 09 June 2011.

Five photographs from Utah one-year-after the cross-continent summer trip of 2011. These photographs were originally processed with Apple’s Aperture application and have been heavily edited with Snapseed on the iPad for this post. Original live-blog posts from summer 2011 can be accessed here

UTAH: Miles 3579 – 4706 (1127 miles total in Utah). This trip marked my first visit to Utah. Hopefully it won’t be my last. There’s no way to adequately describe the density of awesomeness in southern Utah. Much of the southern portion of the state is, in fact, protected park land. Canyonlands, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef… they just go on and on and on. I spent four days romping through Utah —with gorgeous, brilliant, shimmering sunshine— and saw a lot. But I didn’t see nearly enough. I could easily spend a week in Canyonlands alone and still not get a full sense of what that one park has to offer. It’s that amazing. If you ever have the chance to go to Utah, just do it. Don’t think, just do it. It’ll take your breath away, I promise you.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. 10 June 2011.


Highway 24, Utah. 10 June 2011.


Bryce Canyon National Park. 11 June 2011.


Arches National Park, Utah. 08 June 2011.

Wednesday 08 June 2011 (Day 09): 

Thursday 09 June 2011 (Day 10): 

Friday 10 June 2011 (Day 11):

Saturday 11 June 2011 (Day 12): 

Project Noah!

Indeed, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time playing around with these emerging “citizen science” websites. A couple posts back, I talked a bit about, a fantastic  website for cataloging and sharing flora and fauna observations. Turns out there’s another kid on the block: The two sites are similar, but still quite different. I like them both. A lot.

Project Noah is, at this time, more of a share-your-photos type of website than iNaturalist. In terms of data, reliability, and use value from a analytical point of view, iNaturalist wins the competition hands down. Its peer review function and architectural design of handling identifications with consistency and reliability cannot be matched. On the other hand, in terms of simply browsing images of animals in specific geographic areas, Project Noah wins for now.

Project Noah, on its surface, is a more-polished and attractive design from a general-user perspective. Images are geotagged just as they are on, so browsing regions can be quite fun. The problems arise when you consider *when* observations were originally made and the accuracy/consistency of taxonomic and general classifications. On iNaturalist, these data points are streamlined into a unified system. In Project Noah, the submitter simply types the information in (and there’s no guarantee of accuracy). If you want to learn about these animals, iNaturalist is the place to go, but if you just want to appreciate photographs of animals and plants, Project Noah works beautifully.

So, I’m adding both websites to the circuitry of Dust Tracks. I’m going to use iNaturalist from a more analytical, data-driven perspective (especially in building my life list and researching local observations of Nerodia and Anolis species, among others) and I’ll use Project Noah for the more fanciful, pathos-driven appreciation of wildlife (see my account here).

I’ll still be blogging on Dust Tracks, of course — and syncing this blog with these two websites. You’ll now find links to my two accounts in the top “black-bar” menu and links to the two general websites in the right column. I’ve also included short-cut links to taxonomic life lists in the main species menu to the right.

Odds are activity will be moderately light on Dust Tracks throughout the holidays. It’s Christmas time, of course, and there’s much family business afoot! Outside of the ho-ho-ho, I’ll also be focused somewhat on building up my two new accounts and networking and building missions/projects. More on that later.

In the meantime, I wish you and yours the best of holiday cheer! And seriously: check out these two websites! They’re each impressive in their own ways!

This photograph is from Arches National Park, Utah, 09 June 2011.

~ janson jones