California Deserts, August 1999
page 5 of 7
Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area
The Lizard-Watching Guide hadn't let me down yet, so I chose yet another destination from it. East of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, a large hunk of desert used mainly by off-road vehicles. I never would have thought to look for wildlife there, but I had learned to trust the Guide, which claimed it was home for Colorado Desert fringe-toed lizards, desert iguanas, and flat-tailed horned lizards. I followed a dirt road out to the middle of nowhere, carefully marked by road signs.
As at Coachella Valley Preserve, I had arisen earlier than the lizards. It was an overcast day, and the heat-lovingest of the heat-loving lizards didn't start stirring until nearly 10:00. This morning view east across the Barrel Spring dunes features a jackrabbit in the center. (Click the picture to see a larger version in which the jackrabbit is actually visible.)
Eventually the lizards awoke. I saw a quite a few desert iguanas, including this charming fellow. It looks like it's been chomping on some orange plants recently.
Most of the desert iguanas were on the sand, shuffling under bushes or vanishing down burrows when I came near. This one was perched in a mesquite bush where it had been ruminating on the leaves. I almost got a great side view photo but at the last second it was spooked by a clicking sound from a camera adjustment.
Once again, the Lizard-Watching Guide did me right. Rushing about on the tops of the dunes were a number of Colorado Desert fringe-toed lizards. They are camouflaged incredibly well in the sand, and they didn't want me anywhere near them. I usually saw them only as they were racing away. This peek-a-boo shot of a broken-tailed individual is the closest photo I could get.

Sadly, I did not locate any of the rare and elusive flat-tailed horned lizards. But I guess there's got to be an excuse to come back!

Next: Joshua Tree National Park again