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Story Content Entry #5 - The Lizard I Couldn't See


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The Lizard I couldn't see


My front doors, look out onto a couple of vacant lots, bedecked with shrubs and scrub and coconut trees. Recently one of the other trees turned into a Mango tree by the expedient method, of producing Mango fruit. I can sit in my lounge, coffee or beer in hand and watch the neighbourhood coming and going around and through the greenery.


My house has a population of house geckos, as do most in South East Asia, I've three in my bedroom and bathroom, one in the kitchen and a trio in the lounge. There are probably more, and they come and go. I am interested in lizards as a rule, so having these little mosquito catchers, working tirelessly away to rid me of the pests, is a good thing. These fellows are usually a dust brown, with large piercing black eyes that look like jewels.


There are also Tokay geckos in the area, at night I can hear them call and if I look hard enough, I can see them, high up on the eves of houses, preying on insects attracted by the lights, and presumably any unwary house geckos. These Tokay are attractive beasts, some are a full foot long and they have orange spots, on their blueish velvety skin that remind me of Medieval leather armor.


Another group of lizards I see are Long Tailed Sun Skinks, usually out and about on piles of wood or rubble, sometimes I see them climbing trees. These are shiny and stylish lizards, like large long pencils in shape, they are coloured in various longitudinal stripes, of different chocolate colours, white, milk and dark. Some stripes are wide, some are pinstripe, a very elegant looking animal, these are.


Then there is the lizard I can't see. He, I'm sure it's a he, is only noticeable by the passage he makes through the bushes and the creepers and the leaf litter. When I step outside and approach the verdant expanse in front of my doors, to have a cigarette, I often see the vegetation rustle and quiver, I strain to see what kind of animal has made this commotion. I've come to the conclusion that it is a lizard, as a snake would be more serpentine in it's movements and a mammal or bird would surely give me a glimpse of fur or feather. So it's a little bit of a competition between this lizard and me, I on the one hand have ascertained which bush he may be found in at certain times of the day, he on the other has learnt to escape unseen the moment I creep up on his lairs, hoping for a glimpse of him.


A neighbor boy, is often seen, wandering about with a long fishing pole equipped with a small noose on it's tip. The other day I happened upon him, he, with a catch. It was a Garden Fence Lizard, a girl. Garden Fence Lizards, are interesting to look at, quite long, nearly a foot, with a slim and tapered body, long legs with long toes tipped with claws. Their scales are distinct and slightly raised, giving them a rough appearance, aided by a frill of spines that runs from their head down their spine to the base of the whip like tail. Their eyes seem to protrude in little turrets on each side of their head, reminiscent of the head lights that pop up on sports cars, in little shells of metal. The head is a little block-like in a triangular way. The whole is slightly patterned with a faint tiger stripe motif. The female is generally a khaki brown or tan.


The male sports a more colourful demeanour, from about his hind legs to the tip of his tail, the overall colour scheme takes on a subtle green tint. Foreward of this and ending at the neck, there is a very positive terra-cotta orange change to the brown. The head remains khaki in the male, and under the head is a flap of skin that, when extended, protrudes vertically down from the throat, to form a curved keel. He uses this to signal other lizards for the purposes of territorial declaration and for the wooing of the girls, this too is terra-cotta orange. Lastly, from the angle of his jaw and extending onto his neck and throat is a patch of black, looking like nothing so much as the soot blackened exhausts of a world war two Spitfire fighter plane.


One night I was watching a baby house gecko, in pursuit of mosquitos on my tiled floor, the midges were nearly as big as his head, such a slip of a thing he was, then he got a house fly. It was almost too big, but after chomping on it several times, he dragged it under the desk and spent an hour, chewing it to bits. At this time a truck arrived and proceeded to dump fill on the vacant lots, it kept this up for about six trips until a good portion of one of the lots was two feet deep in soil and rubble. This covered about a quarter of the verdant expanse outside my doors.


The next day, I was outside surveying all this dirt, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the lizard, I'd not until now, been able to see. He was sitting on the stump of a coconut tree, watching me. I moved slowly away, hoping to get my camera, but to no avail, he was off, leaving in his wake his familiar trail of leaves in commotion.


Over the next few days, I kept an eye on the stump, and sure enough, he turned up a few times, generally about midday. I got a reasonable photo today, handheld 500mm cardiotropic lens at 15 metres. He is a Male Garden Fence Lizard. I'll post the photo once the contest is over. He seems to be less skittish now, letting me see him for minutes on end whilst he signals the neighbourhood. Then quickly, he goes.

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