Sunday, August 2, 2015

More Geckos!

A few weeks ago I mentioned in passing that there is a small gecko population in front of the house feasting on the insects drawn to the front porch light. I've spent the intervening time trying to get some better images of them. They are questionably not as cute as the Geico gecko, based on the real Gold Dust Day Gecko, which we saw and documented a few years back on our Hawaii trip. These in Arizona are actually non-native, actually they are Mediterranean geckos, imported for the pet trade, and evidently thriving in urban areas after being released or escaping.  They seem to be doing very well, but are extremely shy - evidence of some very good eyesight!  At left is how they are seen through our security door - ghostly outlines, translucent against the porch light as they hunt.  At right is one as it hides in the darkness behind the light fixture.  Thank goodness for on-camera flashes that work well at capturing them!

At most we've seen about 4 or 5 at one time before they scatter for cover as we approach the door.  Some look familiar - the little guy at left looks like one I rescued from one of the cats a couple months back.  He had dropped his tail (the wriggling tail sometimes distracts predators long enough to get away), but was in otherwise good shape, so I released him out the front door.  He is pretty tiny, only about 3cm (1.5 inches) long, and it also appears that his tail is starting to grow back in. They are quite agile on any surface it seems - they are known for being able to cross ceilings and climb glass surfaces.  The image at right shows one hidden in a crack above our door frame, but reveals the little lamellae under the toes that allow them to stick so well.

I'm not sure where they retreat during the day, but likely go up through cracks in the eaves under the roof. I've noticed over the years that as the Summer goes on, the insect population attracted to the porch light falls drastically even with the monsoon rains - the opposite of what you would expect. Likely these guys are the reason, and those responsible are friends of mine! Too bad they are so shy - they can quickly retreat into the smallest cracks - shown here at left is one near the crack in the eave - already occupied by one with toes sticking out. And at right is another behind part of the security door as another peers out from another crack above. I didn't even know I had captured the one at upper left until I saw the frame...

But if you know me, I love a challenge, so capturing these (dare I say cute?!) little guys is a lot of fun. They relax a little when safely hidden, or at least near a retreat, so have had some luck in capturing them with a macro. Most all of these have been with the 100mm lens, and of course, the on-camera flash of the Canon XSi. The problem remains pointing and getting close to focus in pitch dark hidden behind the porch light. Usually a little hand-held LED flashlight is used to get close to focus, autofocus doing the heavy lifting before exposing. The head shot at left shows great detail around the eye, the one at right is actually a 2-frame focus-stack while it held still long enough to get a little more of his head and foot sharply.

SO there you have it - a little over a month ago I didn't know they existed. Knowing they are there seems a constant fascination - coming up to the house at night we get to watch out for more than feral cats - geckos now too!

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