I also saw something move on the ground near the base of the tree. Although the distance from my chair to the critter was no more than 15 feet, I grabbed my binoculars. A desert spiny lizard crept across the gravel, his overlapping scales blending in perfectly.
While I spied on him, the reptile surveyed the area from on top of a rock, ate a shriveled yellow blossom dropped from the tree, made an impressive pounce into a mallow plant, presumably in pursuit of an insect, and finally chased a smaller lizard under a thick shrub. In other words, he demonstrated the range of dietary items enjoyed by desert spiny lizards.
It appeared the smaller lizard was doomed. But before long he emerged from under the bush unscathed and crawled onto the flagstone walk where he performed a series of quick push ups. This lizard was half the size of the other one, and from the window I could clearly see his markings matched the adult lizard. Was this papa and son, out horsing around together? Or an arrogant pup moving in on an old guy’s territory?
Eventually the larger lizard also reappeared and pulled his thick body up to a pleasant sunning position on a granite boulder. While he lounged, a curved-bill thrasher dropped down right next to the boulder. Surely this was curtains for spiny. But he stayed motionless while the bird rummaged in the gravel, pushing rocks aside with her impressive beak until she reached the soil. She poked busily, apparently unearthing some tasty bugs.
Dusky verdins with yellow caps collected insects from the branches of the tree and a hummingbird called on the new blooms of the desert honeysuckle. An hour or so passed while I actually got some work done. When I looked again the spiny lizards had been replaced by a couple of whiptail lizards. They also sunned and hunted in the garden. Our front yard is planted almost entirely in native plants, and apparently the soil, the plants and the animals are all benefiting from the arrangement.
See really cool pictures and read more about desert spiny lizards and their brethren at Thomas C. Brennan’s website Reptiles of Arizona.