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They’re back

25/10/2014

Bluey on the back step

No it’s not a snake. It’s an eastern blue-tongued lizard.

Skinks do look kinda snakey, don’t they? Well, except for the legs. Though some even manage without those. But they all have ears and that’s how you tell a legless lizard from a snake. That’s right. Snakes have no ears. They can’t hear the snake-charmer’s shennai at all. They can hear you coming though. They get a two dimensional sonar scan from ground vibrations through their belly scales. I don’t think skinks do that. They seem less positionally aware than snakes. Their weak eyesight doesn’t help much. I guess they don’t have to strike accurately over a distance so it’s not so important for them.

I’d been afraid the building sites on either side of my house had scared the resident blue-tongues away but the spring weather has brought them out of hibernation and back to my doorstep to beg for cheese, banana, strawberries and the odd scrap of uncooked meat. I’ve already spotted a few babies around too so I hope there’s no more cold spells before summer. Recent mild winters have encouraged them to start their breeding season early but climate change also means more frequent unseasonal chills and that can be tough on young lizards with no fat reserves in their tails. Coming out of hibernation early can be hard on the adults too. If they begin foraging before seasonal fruits and insects are plentiful they have to go further for dinner. There’s been a steady toll of blue-tongue roadkill in this suburb over recent weeks.

Even completely wild blue tongues are pretty placid. If they bite you it’s probably because they myopically mistook your finger for a nice fat grub. The two that have made my garden their home for the past five years are ridiculously tame though. They’re happy to be hand fed and will tolerate stroking, though they don’t care for it much. They’re kinda reptilian that way. Today this one followed me back into the house when I was too slow getting it some cheese. It gave no more than a token hiss when I picked it up and placed it back on the step. I snapped this just after it finished breakfast. More blue-tongue pix here.

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4 Comments
  1. Lisa H permalink

    I love these little guys! I went to a function at Parliament House a while back and there was a baby sitting on the top step hissing at everyone that walked in. There’s a certain kind of poetry in that I think

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    • I don’t know about you Lisa, but I can’t look at blue-tongues without thinking of Pop. Dunno why. Maybe they’re his totem or something.

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  2. Lisa H permalink

    Actually, they always make me think of you!!

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    • That’d be all the hissing at people in Parliament House.

      You’d be too young to remember but I once had a pair of baby bluetongues that I took around to Nan & Pops on a Sunday to show off. Nan didn’t want them in the house so I left them in a covered bucket on the back porch. Yankee got the cover off. One died there and I managed to keep the other one alive despite bad back injuries for several months.

      When it finally died despite my efforts and prayers (I was still unsure about God in those days and thought it best to cover all the bases) that was when I first realised that everyone I cared about would die someday and there was nothing I could do about it.

      I was inconsolable with grief and all the crying left me too sick to go to school the next day. I guess the same thing happened again almost forty years later when Ollie, Pop, Dad and several of my friends died within 12 months of each other. Except it took almost a decade to get over that time.

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