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15 Nov 2011

Stand-Off With A Lizard

I have seen him roam the backyard a number of times. He arrives at the beginning of spring and stays through to summer. I have no idea what he does during the rains. Maybe I should be more observant. He has never been in the patio as far as I have known, but my paranoia forces me to leave the patio door closed. Just in case.

In the last couple of weeks, I've occasionally left the security screen to the patio open. I had not seen him in a while and even if he was around, he would never come in. There was a chance that the turkey might get cheeky but she is noisy. I would hear her if she tried to force an entry. It seemed alright. I am right there, after all.

Note: I must admit here I do not really know the gender of the lizard or the turkey. I am making a random assumption, without any basis or reason.

Today, I forgot to close the door after I arranged the patio furniture outside. I was sitting at the dining table, deeply engrossed in what I was doing, when I heard a soft clang against the railing outside. Normally, I would ignore it. I hear sounds in the backyard all the time, with the dragon, the turkey, lorikeets, miners, crows, possums and anything else that cares to drop by. This morning, I looked up from my writing and saw a part of something where the steps end. I had just swept the floor, so I got up to check on it. It was a large lizard staring at the door. I only assume that by his body position, of course. He might have been staring at anything. I instinctively dived to the door and slid it shut. I could not resist the temptation of taking a picture, so I came back with my camera, opened the door slightly and started clicking. I blocked the screen-door with my body and had one hand ready to slam the door, in case he made a sudden movement. I know for a fact that he can move fast. I have seen him. At close quarters, I saw that he had firm feet and a reasonably strong body. If he clung to me, freeing myself off him would not be easy. Add to that, creepy. I have no idea what his defence mechanism is, so I chose to be wary. Sharp claws? Poisonous spit? Sting in the tongue? Teeth? He might be harmless, for the most part, but something tells me he is carnivorous.

Eastern Water Dragon, Brisbane, Queensland
I do not know if he stopped when he saw me or he was doing his thing of stopping and staring at the new environment he was going to explore. I have seen him stare at trees for a really long time, so I would not be surprised if that is what he was doing. Anyway, I know he saw me. He backed up just a little bit when I slid the door and stood there. It was not so much a backing out in fear as it was in defence. He did not crawl away. He moved his body back, just a little bit, with his eyes still on me. The body still faced me. His crimson coloured chest was now facing me, his four feet placing the body in a braced position. At first, he was just a lizard strolling by, with most of the body closer to the ground. Now, he was now ready to retaliate if I posed a threat. If I did nothing to surprise him, he would not harm me, I realized. This is something I have noticed among a few Australian backyard animals. The possums, for example, may not jump at you when you approach them but they do not run away either. They stop and watch you. If you attack, they will retaliate. You leave them alone; they wait and watch till the danger, that is you, has passed. No premature moves that could harm them. No leaving the battlefield with their tails under their bums. Sensible and assertive, aye mate?

I stood there, observing him through my lenses for a bit and then without them. His head turned back and forth a few times. He has got round eyes at the sides of his face. I am not sure if he needs to turn his head sideways to see me or he sees me when he is looking straight at me. I am inclined to believe the latter because his body was positioned facing me. He tilted his head towards the source of noise when an aeroplane flew by. His eyes seemed to be looking up, in the direction of the sound. So, I am going to assume that he sees when he's looking straight. Once, he turned his head sideways and closed his eyes. I had not noticed he had eyelids but the light coloured skin on his face seems to extend over the eyes, acting like eyelids. I do not know any better, so I presumed that he must be listening intently to something, like we humans do at times.

After a few minutes, I decided that he was not going to make any moves while I watched. He kept his eyes and ears open to sounds around him. His head moved side to side and upwards, every now and then. He was watching me and going about his business of looking out for whatever it is that he looks out for, at the same time. Talk about multi-tasking! Maybe he is a she, after all. It was apparent that he would not approach me but he would not turn his back and leave until I did. I shut the door and came back in. I watched him from my chair at the table, looking up from my writing now and then. A couple of minutes after I came back in, he turn around and went back to the backyard. He had ventured into a new space, decided that he did not want to go further and gone back to his usual hunting grounds.

I have never seen him on the patio. I cannot help wondering if he came in today, because he saw the doors open. How did he notice that? Obviously his vision is good, if he saw that from the ground in the backyard. The good vision is not surprising because I have seen him look out for birds (maybe something else, I am not sure) on trees, from the ground, and gone after them. I am intrigued now. Did he see the open door? Did that mean anything to him? Did he see a new opportunity to explore? Was that a coincidence? Has he been up here before? He has left me with lots of questions I now need answers to.

1 comment:

  1. Since writing this post, I've confirmed that he's male (you can tell by the big head and bright red colour on his belly). More details available at http://www.ozanimals.com/Reptile/Eastern-Water-Dragon/Physignathus/lesueurii%20lesueurii.html