Eastern Collared Lizard — Hitting The Jackpot, Part I

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Back on April 8 I posted images of an Eastern Collared Lizard.  I described this species then as being sort of a Holy Grail for reptile enthusiasts in this area.  These lizards are both extraordinarily beautiful and a bit difficult to find.  Encountering one is therefore a relatively rare treat.

I know of one location in the Tucson area where these lizards show up.  I’m sure that there are many others but this location — a trail in Sabino Canyon — is reasonably accessible.  That’s where I found my lizard a few weeks ago.

I hadn’t thought about going back to look for more Collared Lizards until a few days ago when I received a text from my good friend Rene Clark.  Rene is extremely enthusiastic about reptiles and she is a fine photographer.  She suggested that we take a hike together in Sabino Canyon.  I agreed and the next morning we set out with the intention of looking for a Collared Lizard.

We hit the jackpot.  We encountered not one, but four of these lizards in the space of a couple of hours.  Not only did we find Eastern Collared Lizards but the ones we encountered were highly cooperative.  I obtained numerous good images of these beauties, so many that it would be impossible to show them all in a single post.  Consequently, I’m going to post my favorites over the span of a week or so, interspersed with posts about other subjects.

Eastern Collared Lizards are among the larger lizards that we encounter in southern Arizona.  A big male may be more than a foot long, from its nose to the tip of its extremely long tail.  These lizards are extremely attractive.  Males are often bedecked in turquoise and gold hues.  Their colors brighten during breeding season and can become almost surrealistically intense.

Eastern Collared Lizards love rocky hillsides and slopes.  They often bask on the rocks.  They seem to prefer hot weather.  Temperatures were in the 90s when Rene and I hit the jackpot.

The first lizard that we encountered was a relatively small male.

We spotted him at a distance of about 15 feet and immediately began photographing him.  We were afraid that he’d flee if we approached him so we held our position.  I mused out loud that it would be great if only he were a little closer.  To our astonishment, the lizard suddenly turned in our direction and walked right up to us, passing within inches of Rene’s foot.  He then climbed another rock and resumed basking.  Over the course of the next half hour, Rene and I took dozens of photographs of this lizard.  He turned occasionally as if to assure that the sun warmed his body evenly, but he never surrendered his position on the rock.

We photographed him from every conceivable angle.

After a while, we agreed that there was literally nothing more to photograph.  We were overjoyed and high-fived as we left our lizard, still basking.  Little did we realize that our adventure had just begun.

Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm ISII zoom lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 160.  All images shot at 1/160.  The first image shot at f18, the second at f29, the final image shot at f20.

One response to “Eastern Collared Lizard — Hitting The Jackpot, Part I”

  1. Liesl Kii says :

    These photos are superb Steve!

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