Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blue Tailed Skinks and Other Wildlife

I am making super progress on remaking my vegetable garden. By the end of today I should be back to I was when I began the project-complete vegetable garden with finished beds. Moving the vegetable garden has required moving railroad ties. These ties have seen better days as they have been in the garden for a very long time, but they still serve the purpose of identifying the boundaries of the garden. While moving the ties I came across some interesting wildlife. Under one tucked into some nooks were three of the largest slugs I have ever seen. I will leave their fate up to your imagination. I also came across a brown snake about two feet long. He slithered off none the worse for the disturbance.

By far, the wildlife I ran into the most was the blue tailed skink. I never knew much about these little lizards so I thought I would research them. They are very common and feed on crickets, spiders and even moths. They are a gardener's friend and I left them alone for the most part. But finally, after seeing my sixth skink I came across a small one I thought would be easy to catch to show to Jimmy. Catch him I did and was quite proud of myself. I am not very brave when it comes to catching strange critters I know nothing about. He felt really smooth and not slimy at all. I was carrying him toward the house to proudly show my son when he bit me! Needless to say he landed on the ground-unscathed as he scampered off. The bite did not hurt as I don't even think he had teeth. The bite just suprised me. It really was kind of funny. I will not mess with skinks anymore and Jimmy will have to find them on his own.

Another run in with a lizard occurred a few years ago. I was shoveling compost out of my compost bin when I spotted a black lizard with light orange-yellow spots. At first I thought it was a snake and was startled. I gently placed the lizard in a deep wheelbarrow to save him until Jimmy got home from school. The first thing Jimmy did was pick it up and hold it! It was a good thing this critter did not bite! I think we have identified it as a Spotted Salamander. Spotted salamanders eat earthworms, insects and mollusks. They live most of their lives on land and return to ponds for breeding. I guess this little amphibian found a good home in my compost pile which is full of its preferred diet. We let him go back in the compost and hope he is living a happy life somewhere in the garden. I have not seen another spotted salamander since this one visited.

While outside yesterday I kept hearing a knocking sound and knew a woodpecker was close by. I walked out front and found a downy woodpecker pecking on a bird house. It seemed like she was trying to enlarge the hole and my presence didn't bother her much at all. She would just move around to the other side of the birdhouse as I got closer. I encourage all birds in my garden. They are gardeners friends because they eat the insects. I once had a pileated woodpecker pecking on the side of my vinyl house. I am not sure what his problem was as I know there are no insects in vinyl siding!

in the garden....


  1. We love discovering new critters in our yard! We have found so many different types of lizards, skinks, frogs that I had to get a reptile book to help me identify them! I have never had a lizard or skink bite me though! I usually have on gloves so I guess that is why. My mom has had to deal with their cats getting them and she too was bit by one. We have the 5-lined skink (or blue tail lizard as we called them growing up in TN) all over our yard here in Ga. According to my reptile book the blue tail ones loose their colored tail and strips as they mature. Adults may be uniform gray with males having bright red-orange head during mating season. I have a great picture of one I will send you so you can see it…

    Our favorite is the Green Anole which is in the iguanid family. They are the coolest little things you ever saw! My book says they are in the southern part of TN so you don’t have them in Clarksville. They are green and can turn to brown in an instance. When on green plants they are green, when they jump to the brown brick wall, they turn brown. Quote from National Audubon Society book, “Mates are courted, territories defended, and interlopers driven off by elaborate and precisely timed combinations of head-bobbin, body push-ups, and opened mouth displays that are unique to each species. They inflate the throat-fan to expose a bright patch of color to the view of another lizard.” I have a great picture of two mating but I think that picture will show up for Valentines Day on the Pet People Blog. Tee hee…. Anyway, they are the neatest things to observe. We get a kick out of seeing them do the push up routine and also when they show the red fanned throat. We see the teeny tiny babies all over the place. They are just adorable. I think they are smart and I talk to them and they seem to know I will not hurt them. They are all over our front porch, brick house and retaining walls, on the hedges and in the flowers all over the yard. They eat bugs therefore they are my friends.

    We have other lizards and skinks but the Anole and Blue tails are the most frequent ones that hang around the house. The other ones, which I have yet to identify, we usually only see in the woods.

    We also have little green tree frogs all over the place too. We find salamanders and crawfish at times near the creek which is not a running creek but a rain runoff creek. At times with proper rainfall, we have a constant running stream but she has been really dry this summer!

    We have the pileated woodpeckers also! One time I saw three on the same pine tree pecking the bark for bugs. They came and went too quickly for me to see them through the binoculars so I am not sure if it was a mommy and daddy with baby or mom with two babies. Anyway, it was a sight to behold! The reason they peck on your house is not for bugs but they are establishing their territory. They peck on hollow things and the sound carry’s long distances so other peckers know they are not welcome. We have the Pileated, Red Belly, Downey, Hairy, Flicker and the Yellow belly sap sucker in our yard. We have others in our area but those are the ones I have seen thus far. But there is always tomorrow!

    Last night the Saint and I found a baby Brown headed Nut-hatch bird in the driveway. The thing was too small to fly. We directed it to some flowers overhanging in a planter so it would at least survive the night. Not sure why the parents had the little thing so late in the season. Am afraid it will not make it with the neighbor’s cat around….

  2. I am glad to hear I am not the only person who has been bit by a skink. I never ever thought the little creature would bite me! Oh well.

    My mother and father used to live in Colombus Georgia and my mother said the little anoles run everywhere-even in the house. Do they ever come in yours? I think they are cool but would not appreciate them in my house.

    I bet the pileated woodpeckers you saw were a family. Aren't they magnificent? So graceful and huge.

    I hope your baby nuthatch did indeed make it. I meant to tell you I do agree with fate or esp or whatever. You were saying how the Saint brought you home some drumstick alliums. That is too much to be a coincidence. You will really like them. Mine that bloomed this year are putting out new growth right now.

    Anyhow, talk to ya later and I will look for the pictures. Blogger has been acting up (probably my connection) and I have not been able to upload pictures like I want to. Very frustrating.

  3. We have only had two Anoles in the house. One we think came in by being hidden in some wind chimes. I found that poor thing lying in the middle of the sunroom floor in two pieces with two big black cats standing over it looking all innocent… Poor thing never had a chance with those two! One baby one fell off the blinds onto my shoulder when I was in the process of letting them down! Talk about scaring the heck out of me! I am not scared of them and will pick them up but I was just not ready for that surprise attack! The Saint and I were able to catch him and release him back in the yard. We have since added weather stripping by the door where we think he may have entered the house…

    My favorite woodpeckers are the Pileated by far. They are so prehistoric looking and have the neatest sound. We find them fascinating.

    This morning the Saint spotted a Red Fox in our yard. We usually have the gray Fox trot through the yard and this was the first red one we have seen here. So this was an exciting moment for us this morning….

    With the pictures acting up for the Blogger post... Remember, they must be small in size or the Blogger will not download them. I have snapped some on the wrong setting at times by accidently moving the setting. Now, I have the Saint put our camera setting on a small size in each category every time we recharge the batteries. And some times the Blog Posting does act up too. Good Luck… Now to the yard we go!