California Deserts, August 1999
page 2 of 7
Coachella Valley Preserve
Coachella Valley Preserve contains two primary habitat types: California desert fan palm oasis and wind-blown dunes. I came here hoping to find the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, which is endangered due to how little of its dune habitat remains in this prosperous land of expensive resorts and imported date trees. But I arrived earlier than any of the desert lizards awoke, so I started my trip admiring the California desert fan palms. This picture shows some dunes in the background, and the moon in the sky.
The fan palms cluster around pools in a permanent stream. The pools are also home to desert pupfish, various invertebrates, and that ubiquitous invader, the bullfrog. This little froglet hasn't quite completed its metamorphosis from the tadpole stage, as you can see by the short tail.
After I admired the fan palms and pool denizens for awhile, the lizards started waking up. First up were whiptails and side-blotched lizards, who started appearing between 7:30 and 8 a.m. In another 45 minutes or so zebra-tailed lizards joined the active list. This colorful male was strutting around doing his push-ups and extending his throat flap.
My patience paid off. Around 10:00 a.m. I happened upon this fringe-toed lizard speeding around on the dunes. I love the little shovel nose and subtle yet attractive orange eyeliner (more visible in the larger version -- click to see it). One fringe-toed lizard down. Two to go?

Next: Borrego Springs via the smelly Salton Sea