Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Warm weather, clear skies . . .
A naturalist once told me that wildlife populations move in cyclical waves.
That would explain what comes and goes in Pack Creek valley.
Last year we caught sixty-one mice in our house. This year only two.
Then the packrats cycled through – eighteen in one year. This year only one.
The deer population boomed, then declined.
Same for the bunny rabbits, bobcats, chipmunks and coyotes.
The current up-wave is in the bat division – twenty-one roosting under the eaves of the house last night.
The magpie numbers are way up this spring, as well.
And lizards abound – too many to count - inside and outside the house – several kinds and sizes – running up and down the walls – hard to ignore.
I’ve never thought much about lizards, until now . . .
A lady lizard works on the wall just outside our kitchen.
She’s been keeping the wall bug-free for several weeks now.
How big is she?
About as long as the distance between the end of my thumb and the end of my little finger when my hand is spread wide.
About as fat as my thumb at the widest point – tapering to a head as wide as my little finger.
A long whip-like tail makes up half her body length.
What kind of lizard?
Though I bought a 527 page book – “Lizards of the American Southwest” –
and carefully checked all the descriptions, habitats, and photographs, the lizard that works on our wall is not in the book.
She is either a new species, or I am too dumb to work the puzzle of terms and descriptions laid out for me by the lizard-ologists.
But she is real and there.
So I call her Mildred – any lizard you see on a regular basis deserves a name, don’t you think?
I will explain shortly.
As I said, there are lizards running all over the place this year – mostly small, mostly unpredictable in their running around.
Zip, dash, pause, whoosh.
But Mildred has been in the same area every day for some time.
I notice her because I sit and read nearby – and she’s always there, patrolling her chosen territory.
I envy her ability to move up and down the rough vertical walls of the house.
I admire her patience to wait for prey to come to her.
I respect, but do not envy, her ability to suddenly zap an ant or spider with her tongue.
She’s not just any old lizard now – we’re in touch.
One day I walked up to her while she was perched on a stone ledge.
“Hello, Mildred,” I said.
Slowly I moved closer – put my hand on the ledge in front of her – stuck out my index finger very cautiously – right up to her chin – and she flicked her pink forked tongue out and tasted my finger – the slightest touch, but I felt it.
Neither of us moved.
Mildred did it again, then turned and walked away.
Did I taste bad or was I simply too big to eat?
Somewhere in the back of Mildred’s lizard brain must exist the knowledge that her ancestry goes back more than 220 million years ago – Triassic era.
Some of her relatives were 56 feet long.
Maybe I registered as an impossible lunch to her.
Or maybe I had simply been acknowledged in a lizardly sort of way.
(Now there’s cocktail-party small-talk ammunition, don’t you think?.
Ever been licked by a lizard?
Or been rejected by one?
Have any lizard friends?)
One day I noticed another lizard following Mildred wherever she went.
This one was about the same size and color as Mildred, but he had a bright blue chest.
Call him Eddie. Why not?
I know about the chest because he did pushups – pumping up and down and flashing his lizardly bling, while trembling – doing a lizard hip-hop dance. Mildred seemed mesmerized, lying flat and still on the cement of the porch.
And before long Eddie was crawling all over Mildred, doing his dance, making his moves, exposing his chest, and finally wrapping himself around her stern, while Mildred lay very still.
They were copulating.
I know because I checked on YouTube and sure enough, there’s a video of lizard love.
(For that matter, you can see a video of almost anything you can think of making out – giant turtles, pandas, camels, lions – whatever. The camel’s way is hilarious – take a look.)
Anyhow, Eddie hung around for a couple of days and then disappeared.
Mildred remains – growing fat around the middle – “gravid” is the word.
Babies are on the way.
If I move slowly, don’t do any pushups or expose my chest, she will still let me get close enough to touch my finger with her tongue.
So now you know why I call her Mildred and think she’s female.
It personalizes the contact with a tiny lady dinosaur who fears me not.
Wonder what she thinks of me?