Adapted from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter of February 23, 2007
issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve,
QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

THE SPINY SWIFT
IN MY ADOBE OVEN

On sunny days -- and most days here are sunny -- the solar cooker I described in this year's February 2nd Newsletter fries my eggs and bakes my pulque bread. On cloudy days I make a little fire in an adobe oven. The oven is of a special high-efficiency design, made of dirt and lime, so it's sort of an adobe oven. It's an especially good design for families who keep a pot of beans gurgling most of the day, but for my fry-an-egg- and-scat manner of cooking it's a bit awkward. I've adapted it to my approach, however, so we get along.

Mesquite Lizard, SCELOPORUS GRAMMICUSA lizard lives in the oven. When I'm cooking he moves into one of the special ventilation chambers and doesn't seem to mind -- actually seems to like the heat. When you walk along the reservoir, every roadcut with exposed rocks entertains this kind of lizard -- sometimes five or more scampering away as you walk by. You also see them in forests, even at higher elevations. They're all over the place, and they're very similar to the North's fence, or spiny, lizards. You can see the one on my adobe oven here.

Looking at lizard lists from our area and comparing my oven lizard with photos, best I can figure out, this is SCELOPORUS GRAMMICUS, the same genus as the northern fence lizards, but a different species. S. grammicus is sometimes known as the Mesquite Lizard, and we do have Mesquite here. The species is considered to be distributed from southern Texas through most of upland Mexico.

Actually, Sceloporus taxonomy seems to be in such a mess that I wouldn't be surprised if many of the 77-or-so species currently recognized turn out to be variations of a few taxa. That's one reason I rather like the name "spiny swift" thrown about breezily by reptile fanatics in herpetology forums on the Internet. My S. grammicus isn't as spiny as some species but, at least when it's warm, he's certainly swift. I'd never have been able to photograph him if it hadn't been a chilly day.