Back-hoe And Lizard

Last year Bev and I bought a few acres of bleak Chihuahan desert scrub in the Sulphur Springs Valley near Bisbee, Arizona. It’s just a small expanse of sand, rocks, and gravel clad with a scanty growth of low mesquite and creosote bush. The views of the surrounding mountains, the vast sky free of light pollution, and the lack of neighbors are weighty factors on the plus side of the scale.

The property is a ways back off the blacktop and beyond the coppery reach of power-lines. We can drive to within a few hundred feet of the place, but this winter we began to feel that we needed a road of some sort.

This morning a local back-hoe operator named Benchy met us at the property and proceeded to displace a few mesquite clumps and grade a road for us.


It’s always enjoyable to walk on a brand-new road or path. Benchy did a good job for us.


The road ends on a low plateau which rises just far enough from the valley floor to offer panoramic views as well as being above the monsoon floods. Bev checks it out:


While we walked on that road for the first time a patch of white caught my eye, something pale embedded in the sandy surface of the road. Perhaps a run-over scorpion? I kneeled and plucked a limp creature from the sand. It was a small white-bellied lizard and it seemed to be dead. I set it down right-side-up and it stood up rigidly, although the reptile seemed to be in a daze.


The lizard’s back was patterned in a distinctive chevron pattern. Once we got home I identified the creature as a species of Holbrookia, most likely Holbrookia elegans, the Elegant Earless Lizard.


The species lives in Southeast Arizona, Southwestern New Mexico and doubtless in Mexico as well. It likes thinly-vegetated rocky areas, so no wonder we found one! It was probably hibernating before it was rudely aroused by the back-hoe.

On the way back to the van we kept an eye out for the lizard. Would it still be standing where I left it? Bev spotted it and I picked it up. The lizard still seemed dazed, so I set it in the fragrant shade of a creosote bush. That lizard was the first terrestrial creature we have encountered at that place.