Catch and Release

Sometimes, things fall into your lap - literally!

This shot is a photo of a temporary housemate of ours, rather unimaginatively dubbed "Skinky", just before he was released back out into 'the wild'. Skinky, funnily enough, is a skink(!). And, he literally fell into my short-term care. I was out for a walk with our dog, next to a creek, and while I was watching a bird flying low, across our path, Skinky fell from the bird's mouth just a metre or so in front of us. I couldn't believe it!

While I was still standing there, amazed (probably with my mouth unattractively wide open!), Neo (the dog) lurched forward, and made a beeline for what had dropped. Holding onto him, I ineveitably lurched too, and almost stepped on it. It took an angst-filled moment or two to get Neo away from this quarry, which he was also keen on as a potential protein (yuck!), and see what exactly the bird had 'lost'. After a little hooplah, there in the long grass, rolled into a ball, with a bloody nubbin where his tail had been moments earlier, was a very sick looking skink. I think we were both in shock, and for a moment, neither of us was moving!

Years of growing up with wildlife doco's, suddenly flooded back to me. The childhood trauma of watching the 'reality' of nature, gripped me (enter images of 'lion versus baby wilderbeast'!). David Attenborough's potential disapproval tsk-tsked in my head, but in this case - I could not let nature fend for itelf. I knew I may be tempting fate, and had no idea what the result would be... but, something lead me to wrestle home a very grumpy, and unco-operative dog, while carefully carrying a bloody and cold skink in a very unglamorous (but empty!) canine faecel receptacle (i.e. empty dog poo bag). At any rate, Skinky was a fine example of an animal that really wanted to live, despite the odds. He survived bird attack, loss of quite a bit of his tail, near dog attack, potential plastic bag suffocation, a heaping dose of shock, as well as a bit of a wait, while I rustled around in a panic, trying to find him suitable convalescent housing.

Enter, unused fish bowl, and assorted garden flora and fauna! Which, to make a long story short, worked very well. It took a few days, and I worried incessantly that David Attenborough would be right all along, but Skinky didn't die. In fact, I knew it was time for him to be released back home, when he started looking for a way out of the bowl. It was great to see him back to being a vigorous, wriggly skink. All up, he was kept just long enough for his bloody stump to callous over, and to regain a little more wriggle than when he 'strayed' across our path. I'd like to think that our meeting was mutually advantageous. My favourite part of watching him recuperate, was when he would crawl into a saucer of water that I had in the bowl and cool down. Watching him move around, eat and drink was awesome, and not something you get to see every day, unless you're watching a documentary. I feel very privileged to have experienced it at such close quarters. I just hope that he kept well away from would-be attackers back down at the creek!

I have to admit to a real love of skinks, not least the amazing details and patterns of their skin. Here he paused for a minute to sun himself, and I could get a shot. Look at those little toes. Although it's blurred, you can even see how his tail is now blunt at the end, rather than the usual slender taper. That bird got a good mouthful of tail, that's for sure!