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The Forest Calotes

The Forest Calotes

 

Rahul Alvares, 31, is a wildlife consultant and snake rescuer based in Goa. He also edits an online newsletter called The Creepy Times. Be sure to check out his website: www.rahulalvares.com

July 2012: Rahul Alvares loves the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary. It is always full of surprises! He had a wonderful trip there and talks to you about his experiences with the forest calotes.

Nature is at times frustratingly unpredictable. Consider the situation I found myself in, one early morning at the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa. I was out birding and had my head tilted up into the trees as I searched for interesting birds to photograph.

Jungles can be silent places. Decibel levels are so low that bird calls will often give you a real start even though they may come from a considerable distance. But today it wasn’t a bird call that gave me a start but a sudden rustle coming from some dry leaves very close to me. The volume of the rustle had me convinced that a large animal was moving beneath the leaves. I was wrong. The perpetrator was a small forest calotes Calotes rouxi. The jungle, it seems, had fooled me again!

The forest calotes is an agamid lizard (also called dragon lizards!), found in the Western Ghats of India, is characterized by its fire-red snout and forehead.Photograph by Rahul Alvares.

Now comes the frustrating part. I only had my 400 mm. prime lens with me! The Canon 400 mm. is an excellent lens – that is if you want to shoot birds more than 3.5 m. away! For the calotes, I would be much better off with my 100 mm. macro lens, which, unfortunately, was lying at home 90 km. away!

Don’t get me wrong. The 400 mm. would give my pictures a nice bookeh (soft blurred background). The only problem was that the light in the forest wasn’t that great. That would mean bumping up my ISO value to 800 to get a high enough shutter speed. Translated that’s more ‘noise’ than I can handle in my photograph.

So what do you do in a situation like this? You shoot anyways obviously! I’m glad I did because the pictures turned out pretty decent in the end.

Besides the 400 mm. has its own advantages. Since this is a relatively long tele-lens I wouldn’t risk frightening the small agamid (which I almost certainly would have had I been using the much shorter 100 mm. instead).

The forest calotes does not possess a gular pouch (the fold of skin extending between the chin and neck of most other lizard families). The approximate length of this lizard is 75 mm.Photograph by Rahul Alvares.

The forest calotes is normally brown in colour and therefore often confused with young common garden lizards Calotes vesicolor. The specimen in the photograph is a male decked up for the breeding season! The bright brick red colour on his back is what helped me locate him quickly among the dry brown leaves.

Like most agamids, this species is arboreal. It is only seen in the Western Ghats forests of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra as well as in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. It has two small groups of spines on each side of the neck. The small lizard kept a wary eye on me as I kept changing my position to get photographs of it from different angles. Eventually it scooted up a tree and disappeared. And I resumed birding again!

by Rahul Alvares, First appeared in: Sanctuary Cub, July 2012

 
 
 

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