At summer’s midpoint, it seems appropriate to post a couple of images representative of the environment of the Big Bend region of Texas at this time of year.
First, an iconic critter with a badly maligned nickname of “horny toad.” Another name for his animal, taken from the 1887 yearbook of Texas Christian University and later adopted as the athletic mascot, “Hornfrogs” has stuck as another piece of misinformation. This wonderful little critter is neither a toad nor a frog, but is in fact a lizard, known officially as the Texas Horned Lizard, or (Phrynosoma cornutum).
The Texas Horned Lizard is listed as a threatened species in Texas, and its numbers were declining so fast in Oklahoma that the legislature tried unsuccessfully to have it listed as an endangered species. When threatened, it freezes perfectly still and does an amazing job of blending into its surroundings. Like all lizards, it’s a welcome addition to our yard, due to its ability to gobble up insects at an amazing rate. The biggest problem is that it tends to freeze motionless and blend into its surroundings, and is therefore difficult to see and avoid when walking around its territory.
Another summer icon of the desert is the rising full moon over Tabletop Mountain east of Marathon.
In addition to the full moon, late July and early August is a fantastic period of summer for stargazing. We were visited by the comet Neowise for several weeks, and one of the best meteor showers of the year is beginning now and increasing to its peak in the early morning hours of August 12-13. Also, Jupiter and Saturn are putting on a great show in the southeast, and the Milky Way is reaching its peak show for the summer during August and September. So, get outside after dark and KEEP LOOKING UP!
2 thoughts on “August in the Desert”
Horny toad, as my hill country friends say. They are wonderful creatures. One friend remembers having one as a pet when she was a kid — many, many decades ago. She used to catch ants for it. They don’t live in my territory, of course, but I always keep an eye out for them when I’m farther west. At the bottom of this TP&W page, there’s an interesting map that shows their occurrence in the state.
That moon is phenomenal. It’s a fine encouragement to keep looking: up, down, and all around.
So interesting to see how the money spent on a specific long-range study on the animals yielded inconclusive results, yet the simple task of mailing questionaires to existing wildlife biologists already on the scene in each county gave a much clearer picture of distribution. Guess I shouldn’t be surprised.