There’s was something in the woodshed when I went down to feed the chooks this morning. A scaly tail sliding out the door. At first I thought Snakey was back, since the woodshed was a favourite haunt of hers (conveniently close to a regular supply of breakfast eggs). But it was someone else warming up in the morning sun.
I reckon I’ve seen that face before.
After spending a disturbingly long time counting and colour-swatching scales, I’ve come to the conclusion this is the same bluetongue, way back in 2011.
Documentary evidence of a skink psychologically scarred by a standoff with a chicken. As I recall, there was a lot of awkward staring – the bluetongue blinked first.
Apparently blueys can live for 20 years or so. Since our place is rich with “habitat” – that is, great big piles of rotting sticks – the guy (or gal – apparently you have to dissect them or set up a fight to find out, thanks to the male’s insignificant hemipenes… *snigger*) may have been hanging round the whole time. It’s a nice thought.
I had attributed our pleasing lack of slugs to vigilant chickens but maybe lizards have been doing their bit as well. This sort of thing makes being an organic gardener seem less like a sequence of indecisive moments in the “slug bait” aisle of the hardware store and more like a practical pest management strategy.
The chooks seem to have a remarkable diffidence towards reptiles. They were completely uninterested a couple of years back when Snakey took up residence in the chook run. The sight of a snake in this position in my bedroom would freak the hell out of me:
But the gals toddled off to sleep, completely unfazed. It was a different story on the day a white goshawk drifted into the trees above the chook house. The hens bolted into the undergrowth and were very very very quiet. Gorgeous as this bird is – the only pure-white raptor in the world – even I found it quite menacing as, in Bond villain style, it flexed first one set of claws and then the other, gazing intently around the yard.
Maybe its not a simple matter of scales good-feathers bad. I’ve yet to see the chooks handle serious snake action, despite the occasional sightings of a red-bellied black by the neighbours. The potential for reptile-avian dinosaur show-downs is definitely not exhausted. For more updates, I’ll certainly be tuning in to the upcoming episode of Bluetongue Encounters on tomorrow’s Chicken TV.