I Find The Unicorn, Thanks To Ned And Rene

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All of us who photograph nature have certain “unicorn” or “Holy Grail” species that we want to photograph but that seem always to be just out of reach.  These species aren’t necessary rare but they’re hard to find or, for a variety of reasons, difficult to photograph,

For four years I’ve been scouring Sabino Canyon looking for a nice specimen of the Eastern Collared Lizard.  Until this morning I’ve had no luck at all.  Collared lizards aren’t exactly rare, but they are uncommon in the sense that there aren’t many of them and they are quite elusive.  They are a predator species.  Collared lizards prey on other, smaller lizards, and is the case with most predators, there are far fewer of them in relation to the species that they prey on.

The other day, my friend Ned Harris sent me an e-mail containing an embedded photo of an Eastern Collared Lizard and he told me where he’d found it.  That whetted my appetite and for the last several days I’ve been pounding the trail where Ned found his lizard.  Still without any luck, however.  This morning I was walking that trail and I saw Rene Clark, another friend, coming from the opposite direction.  Rene shares my love for photographing reptiles so my first question to her was had she seen anything.  She answered yes, she’d just photographed a collared lizard.  She offered to show me exactly where she’d been successful, so she turned around and we walked back up the trail about 1/4 mile.  When we got to the spot, the rocks were devoid of lizards. I thanked Rene and she turned and headed back up the trail in the direction she’d originally been going.

Not ten seconds elapsed when I saw a head pop up from behind a rock.  A lizard was peering at me.  I instantly recognized it as an Eastern Collared Lizard.  I muttered to myself:  “don’t blow this opportunity!” and I froze in place.  Several minutes went by and I stood motionless, watching the lizard watch me.  Then, to my delight, the lizard hauled itself up onto the rock in plain view.  I kneeled down very slowly, and I proceeded to photograph it.  Here’s the image.

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You can see why I searched so long for this photo and why I’m so excited about it.  Eastern Collared Lizards are gorgeous.  Males, like this one, are a brilliant turquoise in color, with golden accents on their heads, faces, and feet.  This species is quite large, as local lizards go.  An adult like this lizard measures up to 14 inches from tip of nose to tip of tail.  Only Gila Monsters are larger.

I’m just absolutely delighted about this photo.  Thanks, Ned and Rene!

Image made with Canon 5Diii, 180 f3.5L Macro lens, available light, ISO 200, M setting, f8 @ 1/1000.

4 responses to “I Find The Unicorn, Thanks To Ned And Rene”

  1. Liesl Kii says :

    This is indeed a gorgeous creature. Congratulations on your find!

  2. Sue says :

    Mazel Tov!

  3. Paule Hjertaas says :

    I will be slowly heading east on my way home tomorrow via Buenos Aires refuge for 3-4 days. I have been looking for a collared lizard for a while. Is there any way we could meet and you could show me the location later in the week?

  4. Paule Hjertaas says :

    Interested in trying for it? I just sent him a email and asked if we could meet later in the week and he could show us the location.

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