That Sunday evening I was returning back home I noticed a slender lizard peeking out from the rainwater drain of my garage entrance. I quickly parked my car and pulled out Canon EOS 1D Mark IV fitted with Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM. My house has Mangalore tiled roof. I have fitted it with a Rainwater harvesting pipe which runs all around the roof edge and collects the rain water from the roof and routes it to our drinking water well after filtration. This has resulted in perennial water supply in our well which used to get dried by the end of summer months. The Rain water harvest pipe was good 8 feet from the ground where I was standing. So I lifted both my hands over my head so that I could get as close as possible to the lizard and took these photos. I let the camera auto-focus to do its job while shooting. To get the better depth of field I used f/11 and ISO 4000 as the light was fading. Luckily the lizard was on the west side of the house and thus received the evening light. The shadow area under the roof tiles gave the nice dark background to the lizard.
The lizard which was peeking out through the semicircular water pipe was Elliot’s Forest Lizard (Calotes ellioti). Calotes ellioti also called Annamalai Forest Lizard is an agamid lizard found mainly in western ghats in Southern India, up to 6000 feet altitude in the Annamalai Hills. This species inhabits the Western Ghats and is found in the Anaimalai, Tinnevelly and Sivagiri hills and the Malabar coast (Smith 1935, Sharma 2002). Manthey (2008) mentions an isolated single record from Mahabaleshwar, in northern Western Ghats (Maharasthtra state, India). This brilliant photo of vibrant male Calotes ellioti in bright red color published on deviantArt by NEcrOMAnCERDEmON taken near Sinhaghad fort shows the northern extant of this lizard’s distribution.
I don’t know how common this lizard is, in a city like mine. That too finding this lizard in my backyard was a great surprise. Studies have shown that it favors a degraded patch of the forest. Ishwar et al. (2003) surveyed the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve and 14 rainforest fragments in the Anaimalai Hills, both in the Western Ghats mountains. They found that this species occurs in dry and moist deciduous forest, as well as primary rainforest and associated altered habitats such as tea, coffee, and cardamom plantations. This species dominated the arboreal reptile community in the protected area and, moreover, rose to be the most dominant agamid in the fragmented forest. This species is a habitat generalist and appears to be unaffected by forest fragmentation.
Inger et al. (1984) questioned the specific distinction of this species and placed it within the synonymy of its closely related congener, Calotes rouxii Dumeril & Bibron 1837. But none followed their arrangement, and instead recognized C. elliotti as a distinct species. Günther, A. in 1864 in his book The Reptiles of British India first described this species differentiating it from Calotes rouxii as follows “Jerdon enumerates a C. rouxii in his list of the Reptiles of Southern India (Journ. As. Soc. Beng. xxii. p. 471); having seen a rough figure of this species in the collection of drawings in the possession of W. Elliott, Esq., I have come to the conclusion that this must be an undescribed species, having a pair of isolated spines immediately behind the orbit and a black fold of the skin before each shoulder. The male is represented as uniform blackish brown, with yellow head and neck: the female brown, with irregular dark cross bands. I propose for this species the name of C. eliiotti.”