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Big Skink News!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

 One thing I really get off on is being able to tell a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even better is a story that continues. Stories need to go somewhere.

This is why I label and date my photos. When you label and date your photos you can retrieve them. When you can retrieve your photos, you can pile them all together and tell a story with them.

It's kind of like curating scientific specimens. If someone brings a dead bird to a museum, one they've had in their freezer for an unspecified time, and they didn't bother to put a slip of paper into the Ziploc bag with it, one with two simple bits of information written on it: date and location where it was found, well, that bird is of vastly diminished use as a specimen. If it gets into the collection at all, it'll be made into a skeleton.

Put a date and location on a slip of paper in with that bird, and it magically becomes a scientific specimen. Simple as that. You have to date stuff. You have to put a location on it. Then it can be used for study.

The same goes for photographs. I date mine. It makes all the difference.  On May 15, 2018, I noticed a bunch of tailings coming out of the rotty corner of our garage. I caught a glimpse of something long and dark skittering smoothly up into the rotted wood.  What would dig like that? And what would disappear up into the rottiness? It could only have been a lizard. Squee!!!

That same morning, I went into the rotty garage to retrieve my cargo carrier, that I call my Poor Man's Pickup Truck. I attach it to the trailer hitch on the old Subaru and poof! I can carry stinky garbage cans, leaky gas cans, bales of straw, what have you...all the stuff you have to haul when you live a long way out in the sticks.

And in the same corner of the garage was the author of that pile of tailings. A beautiful and totally unexpected adult female five-lined skink.
May 15, 2018, Indigo Hill, Whipple, Ohio

She's looking out of that rotty corner at her beautiful pile of gravel. She lives in my garage. Now, she's not the first adult five-lined skink I've found there. Soon after we moved to the place in the mid 1990's, I found an adult male the size of a kielbasa in that garage. Sorry, data lacking, dammit! And no photo, because I wasn't equipped then. He had a bright orange head and he was thicc.  I was flabbergasted. I'd never known adult male skinks got that big (he was about 9" long!) or that big around! Or that they had this huge orange head!

Then, in the summer of 2017, I saw an adult female nosing around the birdseed bins. I saw her a few times, and got the impression she lived in the garage. Still an  impressive beast, but lacking the bright orange head. So: female.
But this summer was about to be different. 

On August 3, 2018, I got out of my car, which I'd driven up to the front door, and noticed a little swirl of motion on the low terrace wall of the front garden bed. It disappeared into the hostas.

"Well, that moved like a lizard," I thought. I hadn't even set foot on the lawn when Phoebe, who'd come out to help me unload groceries, squealed, "Mama, there's a skink under your car!"

So that made two!

The one on the terrace came back out to have a look at us.

You cannot possibly imagine the squealing that went on between Phoebe, Liam and me about this event.

 It would be grand enough to have a skink around. But this was the first time we'd ever had a brand new juvenile, much less two. There are not enough exclamation marks in my keyboard.

On August 4, Phoebe sounded the skink alert from the back patio, where she'd been visiting the two copperheads who live peacefully in the ever-widening cracks along the edge.

There was a skinklet on the wall, right above the copperheads' home!

It retreated under a decorative block that happened to be lying there. We waited, and it eventually peeked out at us. SQUEE!!

 This would be exciting enough without their having that ravishing blue-indigo-violet tail, that end-of-the-rainbow ombre shaded tail.

Who knows why they have that? To delight entire families of Science Chimps?

My new high-efficiency washing machine is efficient at one thing, and it's not getting clothes clean. It does a supremely lousy job at that. What it's great at is ripping clothing to shreds. It managed to rip a hole in the seat of Liam's work jeans that he could stick his head through. I had left them on the front porch in a heap for disposal. And when I picked them up, guess who was hiding under them?

A smol little skink, who had already lost the end of its rainbow. Be careful out there, little skink. We love you too, too much.

Needless to say, little skink shelters have appeared all over the porch and stone walls, myriad flat stones and bits of crockery under which they may hide. We strive to please our tenants here.

I'm thinking that the young skinks may be fattening up on a strange exotic insect that has overrun the stone walls, patio and steps here in the last five years or so. They're minute, the size of a leafhopper nymph or a tiny ant, and they travel in herds of hundreds, running over the rock and cement, such that the whole surface seems to move.

I first photographed them on cemetery headstones on August 30, 2011, down the road from here. I had a hell of a time figuring out what they were, but my Google-fu eventually prevailed.

Meet Stimulopalpus japonicus. As its species name suggests, imported who knows how from Japan. Lives on rocks. Eats who knows what. I'm burning to learn more. Wikipedia is no help at all. 

Stimulopalpus japonicus is a species of tropical barklouse in the family Amphientomidae.[1][2][3][4] It is found in North America and Southern Asia.[1]

How is something found in North America and southern Asia? What's a tropical barklouse doing on rocks in Whipple? What does it eat? How does it live? is similarly blank-faced about it.
If I had world enough and time, I'd try to figure out at least what the things are eating. What they're doing. How so many of them can live together on a concrete block. I mean, what the heck. 

I may not know what these things eat, but I have a feeling they're what's making my dear little skinks so roundish. 

Being able to wade through your food is a good thing when you're tiny and just learning how to be a skink. Look how fett!! I hope you grow up to be a kielbasa, just like your daddy. That our female garage skink managed to lay eggs somewhere in moist soil and get them past the damned chipmunks and raccoons, to hatch into these tiny jewels, is a huge flippin' miracle to me. 
So that's our Big Skink News from Indigo Hill. 

Oh. And today Phoebe and I take Liam to Morgantown, to move him into his dorm room.
There's so much to say about that that I can't say it. One down, one to go. Ohhh we miss him already.

On my birthday. Photo by Donna Quinn. I'm not crying, you're crying.



We have skinks in the yard and see them now and again, often as a disappearing tail.

Have never seen a skink. The colors are beautiful. I embiggened all photos to inspect. Have to say the copperheads made me worry a bit. And all the wrapped aroundness in the last photos speaks volumes. Hope delivery of Liam went well. I wish him the best. Seems so early for school. Kim in PA

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