What You Can See on May 13
Submitted by Ted Williams on Sat, 05/13/2006 - 07:53.
From Audubon’s Earth Almanac by Ted Williams and compiled in “Wild Moments,” edited by Connie Isbell, Illustrations by John Burgoyne, Storey Publishing, 174 pages. Mini Monsters From Arkansas to the Pacific and from British Columbia to Guatemala horned lizards -- magnified monsters of choice in 1950s horror flicks -- are emerging from hibernation. Most taxonomists recognize 14 North American species inhabiting dry areas from oak-pine forests to thorn-scrub deserts. All horned lizards (or “horny toads,” as they also called) have wide, flat, spine-fringed bodies and tails, and heads crowned with sharp, demon-like horns; few adults are over seven inches long. Especially at this time of year these reptiles can be seen basking, their backs tracking the sun like solar panels. At night they stay warm by digging into the dirt, first cutting a trench with their snouts, then enlarging it with their sides. When it rains they tilt their heads down so that water runs off their backs and into their mouths. When set upon by predators they inflate their bodies like blowfish and, if pressed, squirt streams of blood from the corners of their eyes for distances of several feet. For these “tears of blood” Mexicans call horned lizards “torito de la Virgen” or the Virgin's little bull. Apparently the blood causes discomfort in attackers. A cat, thus anointed, was seen to froth at the mouth and roll.