Friday, March 3, 2017

Lizard Watching with Paulson's Patented Patience Powder

A turkey vultures soars above where I sat and wrote this blog.
This is a continuation of my last blog, “Memories of Summer Past”.  Now, in the middle of winter, is a good time to revisit some of last summer’s memories when life is so busy that it is difficult to find time to blog.

Aug 30, 2016 

            We’ve returned to a landing on the Umpqua River – such a nice place on hot summer days.  I thought today I’d spend more time watching sand wasps and beewolves, but I find myself sitting on a rock watching a lizard.  I’m working on my lizard patience.  I’m trying to sprinkle myself with “Paulson’s Patented Patience Powder”—a term coined by a good friend of ours who admires Dale’s and my willingness to just sit and watch.  So much of what we see happens when we just wait. 

            Usually I just spook lizards and poof!, away they go.  Today luck is with me. I move ever so slowly to get closer. It’s a fence lizard, about 6” long.  Young. He moves off, but settles nearby on a boulder and is kind enough to poop – a black oval pellet, rather like rat poop, but with a white nodule attached.  Ah ha!  I’ve been seeing poop like that and wondered what makes it.  Mystery solved.  Now to find out why part of it is white. 
            The lizard moves to another boulder and waits.  Patience.
            An ant makes the mistake of crawling up his boulder.  Lizard waits.  I wait.  Finally the lizard grabs the ant without moving an inch.  Just a quick lunge and the ant disappears. 
            Just waiting and watching is getting a little boring, but soon I spot a second fence lizard.  This one is only about 4 inches long.  At this young age its head is oversized.  #2 lizard is not quite as wary.  It lets me ease down on a boulder close enough for sketching.  This lizard is much busier than #1.  It seems to fly from one cobblestone to another, grabbing prey so tiny I can only wonder what it has caught. 
            This lizard sits and waits too, but never for very long.  Off it goes to get another tiny, tiny tid bit.  A big black fly lands nearby.  Yum!  The lizard leaps to a nearer cobblestone and then eases closer.  Oops!  Missed.  Off goes the fly.
            Forty minutes have passed (1:05 PM) and #1 has only slightly modified his position.  #2 has changed boulders a dozen times and caught several tiny items. 
            Sitting beside the Umpqua is peaceful.  We’re having our first really cloudy day of fall – probably just a temporary reprieve from summer’s hot sun.  Two noisy kingfishers chased by a few minutes ago, ospreys have taken a swing by and turkey vultures are often in sight.  I heard a great blue heron squawk when I first came down to the river.  My only complaint is my boulder gets harder and harder, and a yellowjacket seems determined to land on my hand.  I keep blowing it off. 
            Twice more my little lizard has tried for the fly.  Once he got within half an inch.  Now, for the past ten minutes, he is working on his patience.  That makes three of us – both lizards sit and wait and I do too.  The black fly buzzes about landing here and there.  Will he make a fatal mistake? 
            The fly is 6 inches from #2.  The lizard knows it.  Head up, the lizard is frozen in place ... and away goes the fly.  Safe for a fourth time. 
            Did I just move too quickly? Or is my little lizard ready to hunt actively?  The little lizard runs off in the direction of #1, about 8 feet away.  He inspects one cobblestone after another ... and then gets too close to the bigger lizard.  #1 flies off his rock chasing #2.  Both end up farther away from me. 
            I decide my hour of lizard watching has been well worth it, but it is time for me to move on too. 

Note: According to Jonathan Hall, ‘wannabe herpetologist’, the white part of lizard poop is the lizard’s pee.  Squamates ( Squamatea = a snake, lizard, or worm lizard)  are very good at conserving water. What would be urine in mammals is concentrated into a chalky chunk of mostly uric acid referred to as urates.  Birds have this too, but theirs is runny and paste-like.



13 comments:

  1. Uric Acid (the white stuff) is the nitrogen excretion of birds and lizards. It can be excreted in solid lumps, different from our mammalian urea, that has to be in solution. This makes a lot of sense for animals with a cloaca but no bladder. For lizards it helps to conserve water, but for birds the weight factor is quite important, too. Watch them eliminate before they take flight!

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  2. Patience and Lizard Pee....Oh my goodness!
    AND...those rocks are only going to get harder, resulting in possibly addictive doses of PPPP.

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    1. That PPPP is special stuff. I thank you for coining the phrase!

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  3. Leave it to you , Elva, to educate us all on lizard pee! Very interesting though I wouldn't have noticed it probably without looking through your eyes. Love the heron, and think I know the exact spot on the river where you were painting it. I recognize the rocks and the background on the far shore. Love those times!

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    1. I guess you really could file lizard pee away with things you don't really need to know ...lol

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  4. Love the “Paulson’s Patented Patience Powder”
    I just might need one of those little green canvas fold-up stools before applying!
    Ah, yes, a chalky chunk of uric acid...I have not had the opportunity to contemplate it for awhile! I'd say it was time, thanks Elva!

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    1. Fold-up stools are recommended, but I never seem to have one when I want it!

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  5. I would just like to find a lizard to find and follow. ha... Lovely sketches and I learned something.

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    1. Thank you Lisa ... maybe someday you'll get lucky with a lizard. I hope so.

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  6. I'LL be looking for white on poop here in Arizona if it's not covered by snow. Thanks Elva!

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  7. Thanks Elva, Ed

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  8. Finally got around to reading this. You never fail to entertain and educate us. :) How I would love some of that warm lazy critter watching weather now!!

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