Toad in the Hole

June 04, 2006

Leapin Lizards

We strolled the Fire Interpretive (or some such weirdly oracular title-d) Trail around the summit of Mount Diablo on Thursday, with John and Mary. Interesting weather -- warm, breezy, then a high overcast that would've meant rain anywhere else, then muggy with occasional breezes for relief, then slightly less muggy, then slightly more breezy... mostly congenial, though. Various posies were blooming --


Amazing how some of these little guys make such an exuberant presence while making a living on unpromising rock.

The birds, while not spectacular, were there to say Hi. Blue-gray gnatcatcher was probably the best, but we had quail, Anna's hummers, oak titmouse, Bewick's wren, white-throated swift, wrentit, chipping sparrow, California thrasher, turkey vulture of course, black phoebe ditto, orange-crowned warbler, dark-eyed junco, bushtit, the usual suspects.

We could see the snowcaps of the Sierra, though it was hazy enough that they seemed to be floating on the eastern horizon. We also had some really funny skies overhead, with various cirrus patterns and then a stretch of pewter-plated waves, apparent upside-down rain, brushstrokes and ripples and shreds of cotton and one sort of negative contrail, a blue groove through a sparse cloud. I wonder if Duane Van Deiman was watching, and what his opinion was of that.

It was a great day for herps. Fence lizards all over the place:

Fence lizard

-- basking, skittering, glaring at us, doing pushups, the usual fence lizard stuff. Thanks, guys!

I didn't get a shot of the northern alligator lizard lurking in a dark spot in the brush, but I did notice its dark eye, whict as it turns out is a fieldmark. Fetching, too.

One one short stretch of trail, on the southeastern slope of the mountain, we encountered five whiptail lizards. The first posed for me:


and escorted us down the trail: "Right this way, please."

whiptail, tail

The state park system has closed down most of its amenities on Mount Diablo, including the naturalist(s) and the funny little gift shop at the summit; maybe these guys are funded by the Mt. Diablo Interpretive Association, or maybe they're volunteers. Nice escort, anyway.

This is one of the whiptail species that still have two sexes.

On our last sidetrip, on the way back from Artist's Point (yeah, well) we met the cutest baby rattlesnake:


It was maybe eight inches long, very cool and collected -- just flicked its black tongue a few times, looked us over, then slowly and casually slid off the tarmac to the WPA stone wall bordering it.

In fact, the WPA work on Diablo is one of my favorite artifacts around. It includes the famous (in certain circles) Diablo Stove, a feature of better campsites in the West. I'd like one in my backyard, in fact. It's stone with cast-iron doors and grill, quite versatile and luxe.

Quite interesting (to put it diplomatically) to notice the contrast between the WPA and its works and spirit and the state of public works, especially things like parks, now.

Posted at June 4, 2006 05:32 AM


Lizards make the best trail guides ever!

I absolutely love lizards. They seem like such inherently happy beings.

Posted by: Sara at June 6, 2006 11:51 AM