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Wildlife in Tropical North Australia - A Tale of Two Lucky Skinks

July 02, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 205

Another glorious morning in Tropical North Queensland's version of Winter. As usual, I was on the deck early, inhaling the daily wonder of our view across the valley to the mountain ranges, the silver gleam of the Coral Sea and the blue vastness above it.

Winter's only hint came in a cool breeze, shivering through the rainforest belt that borders our backyard garden. Sunshine sparkled on ripples near the steps of our swimming pool but I had no intention of getting wet.

We Northerners become total wimps in the Winter months, when overnight temperatures can descend to a low of 10 degrees Celsius - about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If splashing is heard from a neighbour's pool, we know it's a Southern visitor taking the plunge.

I readied myself for my dose of Vitamin D from the Sun, glinting through gaps in the towering eucalyptus trees. One problem arose: where was I to sit? All the deck furniture was piled atop the tarpaulins that my partner draped over the deck, re-varnished only a few days earlier.

It would be unfair to interrupt my ever-obliging Bloke at that time. Out of earshot under the roaring exhaust fan in the kitchen, he was fully occupied with his monthly carnivore-cook-up of sausages for himself and our son.

A light-weight footstool belonging to my reclining lounge perched at the top of the pile. This item I could manage to extract by myself. Once lowered, the footstool posed another challenge: getting down onto it with my arthritis-damaged limbs. Getting up again was something I'd solve when the time came.

  • That time came just minutes into my morning bliss.

Over the soothing sounds of the pool filter's motor, I heard a frantic splashing in the water near the steps. I glimpsed lizard-legs and a tiny scaled head thrashing for its life as it got caught in the jet stream of the pool's outlet pipe. Grabbing a 'handle' of air, I got to my feet, knowing I couldn't call to my partner for help, knowing that I'd never negotiate the tarp-strewn deck, around to the pool-shed and return with the scoop before the reptile's time ran out. Within the pile of stacked deck chairs, an old bath towel hung. This could act as a lifeline, if the Skink didn't perceive it as a predator.

  • By now, the little animal was barely alert, managing a feeble hold on the edge, keeping its head above water. Keeping back from its line of sight, I inserted an edge of the towel to float a few inches from the Skink. Sluggish from its near-fatal bath, the Skink crawled up the folds of the towel. I had to shake it loose to nudge it onto the warm boards of the sunlit deck, holding my breath until its flanks started to move with a renewed heartbeat.

No sooner did my smile of relief begin, than it was wiped off by the sight of a second Skink floating towards the pool steps.It must have been in the water for a while. Its body was in the vertical position, limbs motionless, all energy dedicated to the vital effort of keeping its head above the surface.

  • Having seen this before, I knew there was every chance the animal could revive. But every second counts when a reptile is stressed by cold. The towel came into play again. I dangled it as far out as my arm could reach and chased alongside the hapless lizard as the filter-generated current swept it rapidly towards the deep end of the pool.

All ended well, of course. A pair of lucky Skinks survived with a tale for their tribe. And the Towel-Monster didn't even have to dip one of her toes in the cold, cold water.

Nature Note: Skinks are a family of reptiles, having many variations of body form, colouration and habits. They range in length from a couple of inches up to 12 inches and all but the Worm Skinks have four limbs with delicate fingers and toes. 375 species are known in Australia, some of them found only in Tropical North Queensland.

Dorothy Gauvin is the author of Conlan's Luck, An Epic Story of the Shearers' War. This little-known uprising of the 1890s has been called a 'Secret Civil War.' Scholarly texts have been published about this seminal and colourful period of Australian history, but Conlan's Luck seems to be the only novel yet published on the subject. Check out Dorothy's blog on the mystery,history and wildlife of Australia at http://www.bestbooksfor.com/oz-stories

Source: EzineArticles
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