Tuesday, May 5, 2015
I know an anole
"Artists see the world through different eyes to most people; they see the beauty in things that may be considered boring or mundane". Nicholas Huggins
In Miami, a wildlife photographer has endless opportunity to photograph animals. Many of these animals are very common and easily seen as mundane. If you have lived in the area for any amount of time, without any research at all, you might conclude that one of the most common (mundane) animals is the anole lizard. Consequently, it is easy to overlook as an exciting photo subject.
Recently, I spent several hours on an overcast day at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, one of my favorite urban places to photograph. While plants are the main draw to the gardens, I inevitably spend most of my time hunting for lizards and spiders, and occasionally birds. Usually it is the orange-headed adult male agama lizard or the green iguana that I am after. I tend to ignore the "mundane" smaller brown or green anole because every time I notice one, it is in the same position. Currently, Chihuly glass art is installed throughout the park. These colorful pieces provide another surface for the expert climbing anole to cling to. With that, I thought I might be able to turn the mundane into something more exciting.
The anoles were everywhere that day and they love the glass. An interesting observation was that the Chihuly pieces installed among the cacti appeared to be designed like cacti. But as I observed the anoles, I began to think that maybe Chihuly had lizards in mind when he created these pieces. As an example, take a look at this image of the brown anole and its dewlap.
Anole is a type (genus) of lizard and is the most common and abundant in Miami. Among the anole species, the green anole is the only one that is native here. The others primarily come from the Caribbean. It seems that the non-native brown anole has taken over and in fact, is one cause of a reduced number of green anole. Apparently, the brown eats the green anole eggs.
An interesting fact about the anole is that it molts in pieces and will eat its shedding skin as a source of calcium. Here is an image of a molting brown anole, similar to the first image above.
Anoles have toepads that are large scales on the underside of fingers and toes. They contain hairlike structures called setae that allow the lizard to cling to smooth surfaces, like glass. Take a look at the next two images to see those toepads in action.
And here are two more images, both of a crested anole that has just captured a dragonfly while hunting on a Chihuly glass.
As nature or wildlife photographers, we are challenged to be creative in order to set our images apart from the rest. One way to do that is to go after the mundane animal (you know, the one that will always be available to you) and capture it in an extraordinary way. At the very least, spend some time getting to know your little neighbors. They may be more exciting than they appear.