Among the swiftest critters in the forest at Roundrock are the skinks, lizards that dart among the fallen leaves or disappear around the back of tree trunks. Like most of the wild things there, we get more evidence of them then actual observation. Skinks — and there are actually many varieties at Roundrock — are mostly sudden movement in the leaf litter as we walk past. We almost never see more than a dashing shape, sometimes with a blue tail trailing. With this current, frustrating experience, it amazes me to recall how we used to catch these skinks as children. We always released them, or they escaped our hands, but now the idea of catching one seems impossible (and not very stewardly). Thus it is a rare thing that Pablo could stretch his minimal photography skills and capture one — a real, live blue-tailed skink — in the wild.
These skinks (Eumeces fasciatus) are also known as five-line skinks and only have their vivid blue tails during their first year of life. Thus this one seems to be a youngster. Males can reproduce in their second year, and during the spring breeding season their heads turn orange. As you can see, I managed this difficult and unlikely photo only recently, before this skink had reached sufficient maturity to lose the blue and take on the orange. (Though it is possible that this one will never change color.)
Update: Pablo is in La Jolla, California as this post appears.
Update: There have been a number of comments to this post asking for advice about how to care for a captured skink being kept as a pet. While I don’t advocate keeping any wild creature as a captive pet, skinks seem to be successfully kept. The Wikipedia page on blue-tailed skinks (scroll down) includes a good discussion of caring for pet skinks, so if you’ve come to this post looking for those kinds of answers, please click on the link and see what it says.
By the way, if you live in the great nation of Canada, capturing and keeping these skinks is against the law. They are considered an endangered species there and are protected.