Lizard Friends and Green Things.
This past month I was able to give some thought to our lizard friends – the little ones that haunt your garden beds and rockeries, and the bigger characters that lumber about and surprise you when they walk slowly across your veranda. The ones that dash about the garden or sun bake on a rock, are called the Garden Skink (Lampropholis guichenoti) and they reproduce by laying eggs. There are a number of other less common Skinks that might be seen in our Box-Ironbark Forests.
The common bigger lizards (and they are also classified as Skinks), usually a Common Blue-tongued Lizard (Tiliqua scincoides) or possibly a Stumpy-tailed Lizard – sometimes called a Shingleback – (Tiliqua rugosa), give birth to live young. There is one quite rare larger Skink, Cunninghams’s Skink (Egernia cunninghami), which I was fortunate enough to meet and photograph recently on a property behind Mt Tarrangower. It lives among rocks exclusively. This skink is a large, prickly lizard. Its scales are pointed and sharp. If threatened, the lizard will flee to the nearest rock crevice and puff up its body and use the spines to anchor itself into the refuge. Trying to remove a stubborn Cunningham’s skink from this position is practically impossible.
If you are fortunate enough to live close to natural bush-land, you could get a visit from our even larger lizard friends. Firstly, the Eastern Bearded Dragon (Pogona barbata), and the Tree Dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus), but also known as the Jacky Lizard. I have only ever seen one of these and then only briefly as it charged off when I disturbed it near Back Mountain Road behind Mt Tarrangower. Jacky Lizards are shy and quick to move off from any intruder. Finally, the biggest of all our lizards, the Goanna. Our local Sand Goanna (Varanus gouldi) is also listed as Gould’s Goanna. Our Sand Goanna keeps to itself as does the Tree Goanna which lives further east in a more moist climate. Around Maldon, Goannas will most likely be seen in the Nuggetys and the north eastern end of Mt Tarrangower. It is said that the cemetery is a good viewing spot. All three lizards are egg laying.
So is that it? No, because we must also mention the little Gecko. There are many different Geckos across the country but the one you might see crawling cleverly across a window pane with its amazing ‘sticky’ feet will most likely be a Marbled Gecko (Christinus marmoratus) although we might also see the Wood Gecko (Diplodactylus vittus). Geckoes lay eggs too.
But there is more. When is a snake not a snake? When it’s a Legless Lizard. Two of these petite snake-like creatures can be found in the region but only one is common enough to be seen in gardens. We had one here in our garden in the middle of last year. It is called the Olive Legless Lizard (Delma inornata). Ours measured around 20cm. Totally harmless, these little lizards can give you a fright when you suddenly uncover one beneath the straw mulch. Your first thought maybe that it is a baby brown snake and dare we say, it might be. Caution is the better way to go if you are not up with your legless lizards and snakes. However, do not kill it whatever it might be. This lizard moves in a different way to a snake, moving in short rapid leaps rather than slithering snake-like. It is also known to be quite vocal, emitting a loud wheezing squeak.
I believe that whatever native life appears in your garden is a bonus. Safe-guarding these special and fragile life forms is a responsibility we should all share. If you have a cat, it will delight in terrorizing anything that moves so please keep it inside or in a special indoor/outdoor cattery. Dogs, especially those little ones, will regard any earthbound intruder as just that and will set out to save you from being eaten by the invader. You might consider providing hollow logs or rocky safe havens for wildlife. It would be much appreciated.
The Green Thing
Note. Some of you will already have read the following story as an email or online. I am very conscious of the importance of copyright and acknowledgement of the source. However, I cannot find an author’s name and, given the story is easily available on the internet, I feel comfortable with reproducing it here. It tells us a lot, particularly about the changes in daily life over recent years. I do hope you enjoy it.
Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older lady that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags are not good for the environment. The woman apologized to the young girl and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”
The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”
The older lady said that she was right – our generation didn’t have the “green thing” in its day. The older lady went on to explain; Back then, we returned milk bottles, softdrink bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.
But we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.
Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things. Most memorable besides household garbage bags was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our school books. This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But, too bad we didn’t do the “green thing” back then. We walked up stairs because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.
But she was right. We didn’t have the “green thing” in our day.
Back then we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 240 volts. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.
But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.
Back then we had one TV, or radio, in the house, not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Victoria. In the kitchen we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
But she’s right; we didn’t have the “green thing” back then.
We drank from a drinking fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a disposable plastic cup or bottle every time we needed a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blade in a r azor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But we didn’t have the “green thing” back then.
Back then, people took the tram or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mums into a 24-hour taxi service in the family’s expensive SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the “green thing.” We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest take-away food shop.
But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the “green thing” back then?
Please mention this story to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation.
Footnote: While talking to a friend, he suggested that back in the early 1950’s – before ‘The Green Thing’ – the population of Australia was between 7 and 8 million people. It is now heading to 24 million. We need to bear this in mind when thinking about this story. Population pressure has wrought great changes, not always for the common good.
Country Notebook articles are written by Richard Lee for his monthly newspaper column of the same name.