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Steve Price
The Last Chance Desert, Utah
07:40 pm

Equipment Details:

Google Pixel 5 phone

Post-processing Details:

Cropped, sharpened.

Image Details:

This is a mated pair of Long-nosed Leopard Lizards - (Gambelia wislizenii). While I was taking pics and collecting various colors of agates in the area I walked right up to these reptiles which appeared to be basking in the only patch of sunshine left in the shallow ravine where the pigeon blood agate had washed down from erosion over time. I had the feeling that I may have been the first human contact these lizards have experienced. That or the mating season business was overriding all other thought processes in their little lizard brains.

They were very still and calm while I slowly approached closer and closer taking photos with both my cell and a CanonT7 DSLR as rapidly as I could without startling them. Once I got this close the 70-200mm zoom lens on the Canon was useless so I got my closeups with the cell camera. After a couple dozen images, I knelt down next to them for REAL closeup shots. I even slowly risked moving some desert grass out of the way for better, cleaner pics. All good until the closest shot and the cell camera shutter e-noise seemed to be the signal to skedaddle and run they did back up the hill to their burrow. The female with the orange spots came back out a few more times when I walked off to collect more agates then returned to find her nearby, perhaps hunting for dinner or an evening snack.

From my bird's eye view standing up I assessed that she was gravid with an egg clutch making her appear quite full and swollen. The orange coloration is only found on the females and Wiki says - "During the mating season females develop reddish orange spots and bars on their sides and underneath the tail when gravid." You can barely see the color under her tail behind her back right leg.

This was my first ever encounter with this species of Lizard; and it made my day, having been a lifelong reptile and insect enthusiast. I hope to return to The Last Chance Desert mid-July for the new moon astrophotography session and will do my best to check in on them.