Southeastern Arizona, May 2000
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Chiricahua National Monument
(Click any photo throughout to see a larger version)
Here are some of those big rocks I promised. From this viewpoint in the morning there were big rocks everywhere. Many of the rocks appear precariously balanced, ready to come crashing down on hikers at any moment. Apparently this is much rarer than it seems though, and to date no hikers have actually been squashed. Or so they tell us in the tourist brochures.
You will be happy to know that the big rocks are not devoid of lizards. The first lizard we saw scampered away too quickly to be photographed. This charming Chihuahuan whiptail was the second. We saw a few more representatives of this all-female species later.
These Mountain or Yarrow's spiny lizards were the dominant herps of the area. We didn't see that many lizards overall, but the vast majority of them were these guys. It got so that every time we saw a fresh lizard we hoped it would be anything but another Mountain spiny. However, though common in this area, this is is a fine-looking species and not to be denigrated. They're lizard kings of the mountain and I think they know it. This one's looking rather smug, don't you think?
Here are my honorable travelling companions, hoping no big rocks fall on them: John, Brenda, and Monica. Brenda is the one giggling maniacally.
These big rocks were balancing nearby in their threatening way. They are really quite spectacular, towering hundreds of feet high. And once again I must point out that the tourist brochures insist there is no danger of them falling on you.
John (not me, the other one) was very proud to learn that this lizard he had discovered was not just another Mountain spiny but was instead a new species for us, the plateau striped lizard, whose range just barely intersects the U.S. I'll turn all my friends into herpers yet!

After our morning hike and a nice picnic lunch, we drove even closer to the southeastern corner of the state, over the Chiricahua mountains and down into Portal, AZ, the place where all the birders go.

Next: Birdland