Learn Your Lizards Guided Walks
Resume May-June 2017
Revisit this page in April for the updated schedule of our popular Learn Your Lizards guided walking tours. Lizard walks and other weekend nature tours are included with daily admission of $12.50 for adults and $5 for ages 5-12.There is no pre-registration required, just be in our lobby by tour start time.
Guides include Arizona Audubon naturalist Steven Prager and also Dan Leavitt from the Arizona Game & Fish Department -- and Jamie Wisenall; check out this
Sneak Preview of the Lizard Walk on Arizona Wildlife Views youTube Channel
Lizard walks are popular here -- and having multiple guides allows our leaders to split large tour groups into smaller ones, for a great morning in the gardens -- and plenty of time for kids to ask all the questions they want about lizards, snakes and reptiles.
Casa Grande reptile enthusiast and educator Wild Man Phil Rakociis among our most popular guides - check his website for dates. Not just for kids, these walks lure all ages who enjoy Arizona's most common, colorful and charismatic little reptiles. Read more about Wild Man Phil, and
connect with Wild Man Phil on Facebook. -
Preview Arboretum Lizard Walks with a YouTube Lizard Walk video clip posted by Arboretum volunteer and videographer Mike Rolfe. This short flim showcases our special guest tour guide and shows you some of the scenes and gardens explored on this walk.
Lizard Walks are the most popular guided tour we offer for kids, so make sure to invite yours - or bring along grandkids, nieces and nephews -- but please remind them not to capture or harass the Arboretum lizards. Our trained volunteers are allowed to safely catch-and-release lizards during these once-a-month guided tours in order to help educate visitors, but the speedy little critters prefer to be left alone and can be injured if you're not careful catching and handling them. Make sure to bring your camera for close-up pictures of lizards, because Wild Man Phil will safely catch and release colorful lizards such as the ones shown on this page. Also make sure to carry a water bottle on the walk -- but leave your butterfly nets and lizard nooses at home.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why Arizona lizards do those comical pushups to display their "abs of azure?" Learn Your Lizard walks are a chance to learn why. Mesa Community College Prof. Andy Baldwin is an expert on the subject of lizards and scorpions. Participants in the guided walks this summer will have many chances to observe unique reptile behavior and learn why lizards have blue bellies and other Sonoran esert adaptations. Dozens of entertaining reptiles scurry across the main trail at the Arboretum, where a variety of species are common and many of the lizards are more accustomed to people walking by than their cousins out in the desert. Summer mornings are hot, so wear sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and carry a bottle of water. Carry along binoculars for a close-up view of reptilian colors, and a field guide to reptiles if you own one.
Visitors will learn the meaning of the word "herpetologist" and are likely to see a variety of "herps," and perhaps even a handsome western diamondback rattlesnake basking quietly in the shade near the Boojum trees in the Arboretum's Cactus Garden. Reptiles around the Arboretum trails are more easily observed than along desert paths where their survival depends on being wary and furtive. Just ask Dr. Baldwin:
"Plants provide lizard habitat, and what better place can you go to find shady forests to open cactus deserts where all the plants are in prime condition than the Boyce Thompson Arboretum? For great lizard diversity in a one-morning walk, you can't beat it. In a couple of hours walking quietly around the trails, we start to observe not only the lizards that are present, but the ways they move, sit, and the type of habitat where you can find them. These are bits of information that become very useful in identifying the lizard species.
"Every lizard walk offers different species given the time of day, month of the year, the trail you take, the weather -- your luck that day -- and who knows what else? Last Summer our groups saw Tree Lizards, Greater Earless Lizards, Tiger Whiptails, Desert Spiny Lizards, and even Side-Blotched Lizards. Less common are Zebra-tailed Lizards, Collard Lizards.... and maybe even a Gila Monster. Sometimes, if we're lucky, we will see a snake such as a coachwhip, gopher snake, or rattlesnake."
Baldwin is on the Life Science Faculty at MCC. He earned his Ph.D. at the
University of Texas at Arlington with a study of evolutionary history of reptiles
and amphibians; his master's degree at Appalachain State University in North
Caroline with research on scorpions in west Texas and his bachelor of science
degree at University of North Carlina at Charlotte with a study of the ecology
of carnivorous pitcher plants. Dr. Baldwin's publications in herpetology range
from East Coast salamanders to Texas geckos and even cobras in South Africa.
His present ressearch is on scorpions of the Superstition range.
Do you want to see more images of native Arizona reptiles? Check out the great website: azreptiles.com
The impressive lizard closeup photographs on this page are used courtesy of our Arboretum friends and photographers Patsy Akers, Gale Racut and also Richard Ditch. To see more of their work or inquire about copyright and reprinting, check their websites via the links on this page.
Read more about Boyce Thompson Arboretum weekend nature walks and EVENTS