Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Blue lightning strikes again

with 57 comments

You may remember that at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area on April 12th I saw my first-ever common collared lizard, Crotaphytus collaris. On May 6th at Inks Lake State Park I saw a second one, shown above. Then, not quite an hour later, I found yet another, which soon scurried into the crack between rocks that you see below.

And here’s a thought that’s as relevant today as when it was put forth in 1941: “In times of change and danger, when there is a quicksand of fear under one’s reasoning, a sense of continuity with generations gone before can stretch like a lifeline across the scary present.” — John Dos Passos.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 6, 2021 at 4:38 AM

57 Responses

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  1. A spectacular little creature! I’m intrigued by the way the head blends in so well with the rocks so that it can peek out without being noticed. The quote is a good one…

    Ann Mackay

    June 6, 2021 at 4:47 AM

    • Ditto. Fab post Steve!

      Ms. Liz

      June 6, 2021 at 5:02 AM

      • Thanks. It’s hard to beat the color of that lizard. As for the quotation, the United States in recent decades has done a poor job of teaching American children the history of our country. Now ideologues have made alarming inroads in teaching a distorted, one-sided kind of history full of grievance and woe where every little thing is forced into the categories oppressor and oppressed.

        Steve Schwartzman

        June 6, 2021 at 6:27 AM

        • You have expressed this perfectly. The quote is a comforting one~I’ve been spending a lot of time mentally in the past, recently. Ha, that doesn’t make sense but I’m sure you know what I mean. I LOVE the lizard. Just look at that gorgeous color and patterning.


          June 6, 2021 at 9:47 AM

          • I know you’d have a grand time putting a lizard this patterned and this colorful into one of your paintings.

            The older we get, the more personal past there is to spend time in. Beyond the personal, it’s a shame younger Americans know so little about the history of our country.

            Steve Schwartzman

            June 6, 2021 at 10:17 AM

            • Yes, I agree. When I read about traditional cultures the thing that strikes me is how rooted they are to where they are, and to traditions that stretch back generations. They live their history, it could be said. In our culture it is rare for anyone to live in the same place for more than 5 years, I believe. Maybe skyrocketing prices will change that.


              June 8, 2021 at 8:07 AM

              • Well, next month marks the 45th anniversary of my move to Austin, where it looks like I’m gonna stay. You’re on the mark in mentioning skyrocketing home prices. On local television yesterday I heard the astonishing fact that just since the beginning of the year 1,500 Austin homes have sold for $100K over their asking price.

                Steve Schwartzman

                June 8, 2021 at 8:19 AM

                • Oh, that is depressing. We simply must move from our house, the sooner the better. I am surrounded by neighbors spraying for anything living, an out of control high school sound system (think the worst “music” you can imagine, at deafening decibels), and incessantly barking dogs…it has gone from being a sweet, quiet neighborhood to intolerable mayhem. There must be some corner of the planet not completely infested with toxic humans…


                  June 29, 2021 at 8:10 AM

                • I’m sorry to hear your situation has worsened. At our former place in Austin we had troublesome neighbors. One day I came home and said to myself and to Eve: I just don’t want to live here anymore. Within half a year we’d bought our current house and sold the old one. Let’s hope you’ll soon manage to do the same.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 29, 2021 at 8:22 AM

                • I hope so too. Paul is hesitating, and I’m watching prices climb…


                  June 29, 2021 at 9:07 AM

                • It may be the case that there’s no time like the present, as the situation may continue worsening.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 29, 2021 at 9:25 AM

                • That is what I think although I’m seeing articles suggesting we’re again in a housing bubble that is about to burst.


                  June 30, 2021 at 9:28 AM

    • If I hadn’t seen the second lizard on top of the rocks before it ducked into the crack, you’re right that I might not have noticed it at all, so well do the color and texture of its head blend in with the rocks around it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 6, 2021 at 6:19 AM

  2. Very pretty lizard! The one in the crack is precious.

    Alessandra Chaves

    June 6, 2021 at 7:42 AM

  3. How visible the green lizard stands out against the grey rock! No wonder it slipped away into a crevice where its camouflaged head is barely noticeable.

    Peter Klopp

    June 6, 2021 at 8:58 AM

    • That raises the question of why it would be so brightly colored in the first place, and therefore so uncamouflaged.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 6, 2021 at 9:05 AM

      • Good question! Another one of Nature’s mystery!

        Peter Klopp

        June 9, 2021 at 9:16 AM

        • Venomous creatures are sometimes brightly colored as a presumed warning sign to would-be predators to leave them alone. As far as I know, though, this brightly colored lizard is not venomous.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 9, 2021 at 9:50 AM

  4. Because the skin on his head has such a muted pattern, it looks like he’s slipped on a fancy dress outfit. It’s a very pretty greenish-blue, but he certainly doesn’t look jaded.

    Robert Parker

    June 6, 2021 at 9:03 AM

  5. I’m almost certain that if Steve G. had arrived here before me, he would have mentioned this song. It’s fascinating how something as simple as a phrase (“lightning strikes again”) can unearth a memory from half a century ago.

    There’s nothing common about these lizards; they’re beautiful and appealing. I suspect like most lizards they can be fast as lightning when on the move, but I’m glad this one paused long enough for you to capture that glorious color.


    June 6, 2021 at 9:07 AM

    • When I see lizards waiting to be shot, I can’t stop, no I can’t stop. And it may be the full half-century since I last heard that song.

      You’re right that the (un)common collared lizard can move fast, judging from the one I saw at Enchanted Rock. Fortunately its sprints were short and then it stopped and stayed put long enough for more pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 6, 2021 at 9:13 AM

    • I might have but now that you mentioned it I can’t get it out of my head. 🙂 And yikes to the half century ago comment. I am having more and more of those realizations.

      Steve Gingold

      June 6, 2021 at 2:24 PM

  6. Oh, now that is one handsome mountain boomer!! Such a masculine portrait! I’m especially drawn to the peek-a-boo crevice shot. You are correct about their tendency to “short sprints” and stops. It’s almost as if they’re teasing a bit.


    June 6, 2021 at 9:28 AM

    • Now you’ve reminded me of that other name for these lizards. As far as I was concerned, their numbers were indeed booming, from 0 to three in just a few weeks. The first and second ones would run off a bit each time I got too close but they didn’t seem to want to leave the immediate area, and that made it easier for me to take pictures. As you said, the last one played peek-a-boo, and that made for a different sort of portrait.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 6, 2021 at 10:00 AM

  7. Nice to see the wildlife along with the wildflowers. The first shot really stands out. The second shot I did not see the lizard until I enlarged the photo and could actually see it, instead of a rock stuck in a crevice. Thought provoking quote for this anniversary of D-Day….


    June 6, 2021 at 10:38 AM

    • Regarding your first sentence, sometimes even the photographer has a wild life. Your initial reaction to the second shot shows how effective the camouflage is.

      Good of you to make the connection with D-Day. I hadn’t planned the quotation to coincide with it but I’m glad it worked out that way. It’s a shame so many younger Americans have no idea what D-Day was.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 6, 2021 at 2:35 PM

  8. What a stunning little creature !


    June 6, 2021 at 12:48 PM

    • Yes, it cuts quite a striking appearance. I’d be happy if we all dressed in such bright array.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 6, 2021 at 2:36 PM

  9. Cool lizard. Wish we had a few here. I guess it’s too cold in the winter and too long a trek to migrate.

    Steve Gingold

    June 6, 2021 at 2:26 PM

    • Not till this spring did I learn we have such a colorful lizard here. Too bad I’d been missing out on it all these years. I think you’re right that the climate up north is just too cold for it to survive up there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 6, 2021 at 2:41 PM

  10. Gorgeous coloring!

    Eliza Waters

    June 6, 2021 at 5:16 PM

  11. Wonderful photos, Steve. When I had my first encounter with one of these handsome reptiles and I looked them up in a field guide, to my muddled mind they became ColorRED lizards, and I looked for that red color in vain. My husband teases me about it to this day. 🙂


    June 6, 2021 at 6:58 PM

    • You’re the second commenter to acknowledge having seen one of these lizards.

      Perhaps having German underneath your English turned collared into coloRED. Or maybe your active mind didn’t need that boost from a substrate language. In any case, it’s an eminently teasable thing. I sometimes misread things in interesting ways, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 6, 2021 at 8:35 PM

  12. The colors are beautiful!


    June 6, 2021 at 8:14 PM

  13. What an astonishing and beautiful lizard!!

    Birder's Journey

    June 6, 2021 at 8:37 PM

    • Yes, it is. How I went for so many years without ever seeing one till this spring, I don’t know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 6, 2021 at 8:39 PM

  14. It’s got beautiful coloring and markings.


    June 7, 2021 at 10:53 AM

    • Yes, it does. I feel fortunate to have seen (and of course photographed) several of them this spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 7, 2021 at 1:51 PM

  15. I don’t think I’d ever tire of seeing this lizard, so much color. Not sure if I mentioned this last time, but this reminds me of one day I saw an incredibly colorful frog on a tree just off the trail. I immediately brought up the camera and started photographing even though I was too far away for a good shot. But I wanted to get a shot first, then slowly started moving closer and closer, getting better and better shots, until finally I was close enough to realize something was wrong with this frog. It hadn’t really occurred to me it was too colorful for this area, I always figure there are species I just haven’t learned about yet. But those painted-on eyes just weren’t right. So I walked over and picked up the small rubber frog someone had left hanging from a tree. I pictured someone just around the bend watching me and having a good laugh. 🙂 At least your lizard is real!

    Todd Henson

    June 9, 2021 at 6:44 AM

    • That’s a good story you told on yourself. (No, you hadn’t previously mentioned it.) I’ve also had similar encounters with fabricated objects that from a distance I thought were natural. If one of those objects is strange enough I usually photograph it to play up its incongruity in nature. You’ve reminded me that when I lived in a mountain town in Honduras in 1968 I was out walking with a Honduran teacher one day and we came across a disembodied doll’s head on the ground. I took a picture of him holding it on his hand.

      And yes, this lizard was real. Like you, I wouldn’t tire of seeing its kind more often.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 9, 2021 at 7:30 AM

    • And here’s an incident that goes the other way:

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 9, 2021 at 2:10 PM

  16. His head blends in brilliantly … handsome lizard!


    June 12, 2021 at 2:25 PM

  17. Common? No way! He’s as uncommon as they come and you did an uncommonly good job with his portrait. I love the head peeking from the crevice, too. I envy you these sightings – lizards are so cool.


    June 13, 2021 at 8:52 PM

    • I, too, have had qualms about common in certain colloquial names. In addition to this striking lizard there’s the so-called common sunflower (Helianthus annuus).

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2021 at 9:37 PM

  18. That is a very handsome lizard, Steve!

    Lavinia Ross

    June 17, 2021 at 8:48 AM

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