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Fence Lizard

I'm down in southern Ohio helping to lead trips for an Ohio Ornithological Society breeding bird workshop. We're exploring Adams and Scioto counties, and this landscape includes some of the state's best wilderness lands. I'll post more about this foray later.

We've done well thus far. Our group list stands at about 95 species, nearly all of them local breeders. Chuck-will's-widows on the nest has certainly been a highlight, but we've seen lots of other great birds. And other stuff.

Eastern Fence Lizard, Sceloporus undulatus. A lot of Ohioans are probably somewhat surprised to learn that we have lizards in the state. Rest assured, we do, and the chap above and his brethren are locally common throughout much of southern and eastern Ohio. Fence Lizards prefer dry slopes and openings, and spend much of their time on the ground. Spook one, and they're prone to running up a tree trunk, and the animal's upper body matches tree bark well.

We spotted this one in Shawnee State Forest scampering across a road. Chris Bedel was able to leap from the car in time to run it down and make the capture so that our group could admire it. This is a big, old lizard - at about 6 inches in length, it approaches maximum size for the species.

Something you won't see everday - the ventral - underside - surface of a Fence Lizard. The mature males develop this fantastic iridescent scaling on the belly, and it is incredibly showy when the sunlight glints off the beast. I suspect they flash this coloration at the females in a bid to impress prospective mates. It may also serve to help startle potential predators, but I am not really sure why exactly they are so richly tinted below.

Today was one of those magical days afield where we kept seeing one interesting thing after another. While Chris was handling the lizard and showing it off, a particularly pugnacious Hackberry Emperor butterfly roared in and landed on his hand, making for a good shot. Shawnee State Forest was a blizzard of butterflies today, and Hackberry's were everywhere.
More to follow.


Wally said…
Those little guys are so cool. I've seen lots of fence lizards out in the strip mines in Perry State Forest. All the dry sand and stone really seem to suit them. There's one place in particular where I can go and almost be assured of finding at least one. Good stuff.
Tom said…
Very Cool Jim- In your first photo, If you look closely, you can see a loosely attached scale that may have just been covering its eye. Very cool.

Cape May Wren said…
Tom, I do believe that is an engorged tick on the lizard's eyelid. You can just make out the tick's normal body as a slightly darker oval at the top, with a leg out to either side. Edges of eyes are a favorite anchor point for the little bloodsuckers, and one of the only easily-accessible spots on a reptile... Jim?

Still waiting to find fence lizard on my property. Gorgeous beasties. (I do have plenty of five-lined skinks, however.)

Great photos, thank you!

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