Common, Familiar, Medium Sized Lizards… Eastern Water SkinksIf you like fresh air, walking, wildlife and a view of the ocean and the sky, the Eastern Suburbs is the place for you. Any time is good but early morning and late afternoon are the best. Out on the ocean, depending on the season, whales, dolphins and the odd fur seal may add a bit of excitement to a coastal walk. Seabirds are always present, sometimes in spectacular flocks of many thousands if the weather conditions are right. Smaller birds like wrens and honeyeaters are around too, busy in the vegetation on the cliffs, in parks and suburban gardens. And there are plenty of lizards to see, sunning themselves when the weather is mild and warm. Rocky areas along the coast around Burrows Park and Waverley Cemetery are particularly good for Eastern Water Skinks – medium sized lizards that like to bask in the sun and can easily be approached on the coastal walk where they are familiar with people walking close to them.
In Australia there are more than 840 species of reptiles and over 350 of them are skinks. Skinks represent over 60% of the lizards in Australia, and lizards make up over 65% of the reptiles – that’s a lot of lizards. The remainder are snakes (around 30%), turtles (less than 3%), and two species of crocodiles.
Eastern Water Skinks are about twice the size the little wall lizards and garden skinks that can be seen on fences and in parks and gardens all around the Eastern Suburbs, but only about a third the size of the scarcer blue-tongues that are still around in reasonable numbers. They are smooth, golden brown above, similar to burnished brass, with irregular black flecks or blotches and a broad yellow stripe from above the eye to the mid body or hips; black upper flanks below the stripe enclose several series of pale spots, and grey lower flanks also have black flecks.
They are usually seen basking on rocks or logs, or in short vegetation close to swampy areas and watercourses, on the coast and ranges of eastern Australia from northern Queensland to southern New South Wales, extending inland via the Darling/Murray River drainage system to north western Victoria and south eastern South Australia.
Eastern Water Skinks produce two or three live young per litter and eat mainly insects and spiders with some vegetable matter. They are considered near threatened in Victoria but secure in the rest of their range.
Populations of reptiles have not been affected by white settlement as severely as those of a number of mammals. However, some reptile populations have declined severely. Reptiles face a variety of threats based largely on inappropriate land use practices, habitat destruction, feral predators, and illegal unsustainable collecting. Domestic cats and dogs can also cause problems locally. Notwithstanding these threats there is cause for some optimism as all reptiles in Australia are now protected by state and federal legislation.