Thursday, May 25, 2006

more lizard musings

Is anyone besides my immediate family actually still reading my blog about lizards?

Two days this week we were out at the Beach ranch radio tracking horned lizards and searching for more horned subjects. Moose needs to track 20 Texas horned lizards for this field season. So far 3 adult horned lizards are wandering the property with tracking devices glued to their backs.

It’s unusually hot in Lubbock for this time a year. It’s been over 100 degrees and every time I bend over to pick up a rock I get dizzy. I’m sure if you’ve seen all my brothers pictures on Flickr, you might assume that Texas wildlife is not only diverse but crawlin’ all over the place.

You might think that a walk with Lisa and Jack through the Texas scrublands might lead to a venomous bite on the ankle. But really if you’re not looking really hard you could easily see nothing but some grass and some birds. Texas wildlife IS diverse but it is not abundant and most animals are hiding in their underground tunnels waiting for either the apocalypse or just the hot sun to go down. After I take a bite of this mushroom I think I’ll slide down that rabbit hole and join them.

The chances of getting bit by a snake are slim. They really don’t want to waste their venom on someone who is much too large to swallow. If his rattling doesn’t scare you off he’s going to try to leave the scene as quickly as possible because you IS scary as shit! In fact he might not even rattle so much at all since all his louder rattling amigos were rounded up by killer cowboys. They were never heard from again. This left the quieter rattlesnakes to live long and multiply providing science text books with an example of (un) natural selection.

While I was aimlessly walking around the brush scanning for lizards, I wondered what neurons were firing at the moment I realized out of the corner of my eye that an animal such as a Texas horned lizard was sunning himself nearby. How did I make sense of that breathing patch of lizard fabric so meticulously sown into the scrubby carpet of the Beach Ranch? I would scan the ground with full concentration and determination. It was tiring. I saw a lot of “stuff” but couldn’t catch shit.

Moose scans effortlessly, a skill highly developed over 20 years of training. In his words,

“ The animals just pop out, seeing them just comes second nature.”

For both of us, the eureka moment of noticing (and then catching if you can) the hidden animal is magical and exhilarating even if it’s the same species over and over again. But one never knows what waits around the bend. A couple days ago I spied two coach whip snakes entwined in cold-blooded copulation next to a prickly pear cactus. Catching two reptiles in the act was very exciting. It’s a fetish of mine…just kidding. But it sure is much easier to see animal if it is moving (and having sex) than if it is still!

While we were “road cruising”, (its also much easier to see an animal if its on the open road) Moose slammed on the breaks and I went flying forward for the 10th time the other day. I looked ahead. Nothing was in sight for miles. He jumped out of the car. In seconds he returned and the familiar Eau de’ Colubrid wafted into my nostrils. The million dollar lottery look of total and utter joy on his face told me that this wasn’t just another western diamondback rattlesnake but someone much more precious. It was the beautiful and fair Texas long nosed snake-a snake he had previously only seen in pictures; a reptile to write songs about.


Larry Newman said...

mute rattlers?

STanda said...

Yeah, I do. From time to time. :) I wish I had the vacation to go out like you. Take care!