Gathan Beaga

Chocolate, a reptile of our garden

Yesterday we had been watching out the window as the little common skinks came out of the grass to bask in the sun on the retaining wall outside the kitchen window. They’re pretty spooky though, so I’d never managed to take any photos. They’re another one of those animals that seems to be intensely aware of when it’s being observed: the moment your eye flickers away it will disappear. Like magic.

Skink (1)Later I was mowing a very long patch of grass (we had a few left over from our holiday) when I noticed a sinuous movement across the sparsely grassed dirt left behind by the mower. It was another little skink, now trapped in the open.

Rather than trying to dash for cover, it kept freezing and hoping I would fail to notice it. I corralled it easily, and when it climbed on my right hand I quickly cupped it with my left.

I called for Rosa to get her insect viewer, and we were able to place it in and have a good look1.

It was very beautiful; all stripes and scales (you can click through to Flickr if you want to see these larger – there’s a couple other shots there too):

Skink (3)

As it customary, the girls awarded it a name (“Chocolate, the brown lizard”), and Rosa even tried to pat it. Unfortunately little wild lizards are not calmed by stroking, and it got a little agitated.

We thought we’d better put it back, so we found a spot on the lawn not far from some good cover, in the hope that we could observe its run across the mown grass to safety. To our surprise it did something else:

Skink (5)

It had dived right under the grass, into the gaps between the shoots, with the interlocking sward above it providing cover. We tried to follow its progress by looking for the vibrations in the grass, which worked for a little while, until a moment’s inattention lost it from view.

It was easy now to re-imagine it as a terrifying beast of the grass-jungle, squeezing and twisting between the “trees” in search of prey: ants, slaters, and grasshoppers; and it is possible my colourful description may yet prove counterproductive to Rosa’s sleeping-patterns. We shall see.

And meanwhile, little Chocolate is, I hope, none the worse for its own terrifying experience at our hands.

1 The last time I tried this, when I was a kid, it all went pretty badly. Not that the lizard–a larger one–tried to bite me, but that it voided its bowels all over my fingers, leaving a stink that took several days of hand-washing to disperse.