In spite of (or perhaps because of) another very hot, dry summer here, my suburban backyard is a small refuge for a variety of insects, birds, and reptiles. Among the largest of the reptiles I’ve seen recently is the Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus), which is about seven or eight inches in length, including the tail. A handsome and spiky dragonesque creature, the Texas Spiny Lizard is nevertheless quite shy, and is usually heard, but not seen, skittering around after insects in the leaf litter under the Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides). A very few times I’ve seen this native lizard sunning itself on a rock near the compost bin, or splashing through the birdbath; most of the time, its presence is known only by the noise it makes in the dry leaves, and by a fleeting glimpse of a long striped tail.
A few of you may remember that I’m fond of
defacing altering books with paint, colored pencils, felt-tip pens, and my scribblings on wildlife. My primary art journal is currently locked up in a display cabinet at the university, as part of an exhibit on a neuroanatomy elective that a colleague and I “supervised” (two second-year medical students designed and implemented the course) this spring, so I returned to the altered book for the drawing below. The book is not valuable, and I bought it second-hand in London years ago; it’s filled with a lot of disagreeable “great white hunter” adventures, one of which I painted over completely, except for phrases including “owl” or “owls.” The altered page below is part of a chapter in which the author is trying to shoot a bear, which is warned off by the rattling call of a Belted Kingfisher. The author goes on to describe accidentally hooking a juvenile kingfisher, and then removing the hook from the unfortunate bird.
Texas Spiny Lizard and cottonwood leaves: colored pencil, Micron pen, watercolor pencil