When I was a kid, my parents took frequent trips to
The hot sand beyond the strip crawled with secretive life. We marveled at enormous ants clearing rings around the bustling entrances to their colonies. Turning over rocks, we watched in fascination as centipedes and scorpions scurried to find new hiding places. But our favorites were the lizards and most of all the horny toads.
There’s a lot to love about a horny toad--or horned lizard as they are more properly called. Of course, their thorny exterior makes them uniquely charismatic. Occasionally one would manage to jab us with the sharp horns that rimmed the back of its head and we would imagine ourselves as T. rex’s, in mortal combat with the great armored herbivores of the Jurassic.
The most endearing characteristic of horned lizards was how easily they were caught. Their evolutionary survival strategy is camouflage. Unlike the speedy race runners or desert swifts, horned lizards don’t run off when approached. Usually they hunker down and hope you’ll pass. To two little kids that made them the best lizards ever.
I suppose those memories are why horned lizards hold such fascination for me. I thrill every time I see one. I’m willing to travel a distance to get that rush too. So last weekend I headed south to Chaparral Wildlife Management Area to get my annual horned lizard fix.
Even in Chaparral where horned lizards are still fairly common, they’re not easy to spot. The lizard hunting plan is to drive, drive, drive and then drive some more, slowly going up and down the roads of the wildlife management area staring at the pavement. It’s not unusual for hours to pass without seeing anything.
I shouldn’t say that though, there’s a lot of other stuff to see. This time of year, the chaparral is teaming with flowers and butterflies. Birds including caracaras, painted buntings, vermilion flycatchers and roadrunners can be seen. Maybe a pack of javalina will cross the road. Or a diminutive
Our patience on this trip was rewarded with a stunning ten horned lizard sightings. Naturally, I had to photograph each and every one. Along with their official status as the Texas State Reptile, all three horned lizards species living in
It’s hard to believe that horned lizards were once common in
To learn more about horned lizards go to:
Photo: This lizard has one skewed horn. Sometimes they'll tilt their head backward to stab you with those things.Photo: The colors seem bright but they blend very will with the lizard's environment.Photo: My daughter Coral and her friend Carl serving as horned lizard spotters on the top of my Jeep.