Another flat-tail Friday

By Cameron Barrows, PhD. Associate Research Ecologist Center for Conservation Biology, UCR |

As challenging as flat-tailed horned lizards are to find, Paisley has become an amazing horned lizard spotter - seeing four of them this week. This one could be barely bothered to open his eyes for Paisley's camera. On warm nights, like those we have had this week, flat-tails will sleep out in the open on the sand, depending on their incredible cryptic patterns to avoid detection.


Whether due to more good naturalists out looking, or increases in horned lizard numbers, I am getting more and more reports of sightings of Blainville's (aka coast) horned lizards as well. The attached image is from Larry Heronema, a CalNat grad from


our inaugural 2018 class and an amazing naturalist.  Among the ways to distinguish between the two species, Blainville's are "more spiny", they lack the dark midline down their back that flat-tails have, have an extra very small spine in between their two longest occipital crown spines, and have a longer double row of lateral spines. Blainville's in our desert region are found on our sky islands (mountains) between 3800-6000' elevation. In Joshua Tree National Park they are confined to the higher elevation - west end of the park. However there, another species, the desert horned lizard (I've attached an image of an obvious male for comparison) , appears to be moving into what used to be Blainville's habitat, squeezing the Blainville's into an increasingly smaller wedge of available habitat (likely due to climate change). Nearer the coast they Blainville's used to be found almost to the beach edges.


Also from Paisley, as she is checking our wildlife cameras place at burrowing owl nests, is another image from a nest I showed you last week. Last week there were 5 chicks, but this week there are 7. Clearly they got the message from our Governor and are practicing appropriate social distancing. Paisley also reported a set of images of a coyote visiting this nest, but the chick count was the same before and after that visit.


Finally, I wanted to pass along a new iNaturalist opportunity. There is now a "California Naturalist Program Certified Naturalist" project open to just CalNat Certified Naturalists. Apparently you (and only you alums) can sign on and it will thereafter automatically add your observations on to the project. It might be fun to see how our "desolate, devoid of life" desert region compares to the rest of California. Maybe we can change some biases about our amazing desert.