Friday, July 21, 2017

Sceloporus occidentalis, western fence lizard at Port Discovery

A few years ago I was walking the beach at Port Discovery and noted a lizard on the driftwood along the upper beach. Seeing lizards in the field in many places I have worked would not be much to note. But in western Washington seeing lizards is not common. Our cool wet weather limits good lizard habitat to a limited area of drier locations. 

On a recent trip to Port Discovery I was traversing a steep slope well above the bay and got a very brief glimpse of one lizard and then a second lizard chose to stay still. 

Sceloporus occidentalis, western fence lizard (thanks to Lori and Roger for the ID)

The lizards were located well above the beach, 350 feet above. The slope is southwest facing and in the rain shadow of the Olympics. There is evidence that these slopes have burned on a periodic basis and the slopes are very dry with a mix of grass land and trees and brush. Pretty good habitat.  

View of slope area

The underlying geology of the slope was sandy and gravelly glacial till on the top of the slope with sand and gravel glacial advance outwash below. Older glacial and non glacial units are present further down the slope.  

View of habitat from above just above some glacial till exposures

Vie of the Port Discovery bay from the open slope
Species observations from

This lizard species occupies the east slopes of the Cascades, the Columbia River Gorge, the Blue Mountains and the prairie areas of the Puget lowland. The north Puget lowland areas are a bit of an outlier, but match reasonably well with the other habitats as areas that dry out for longer periods due to a combination of climate, slope aspect and soils.  

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