Last weekend, I finally got round to moving some of the last remaining limbs of the oak tree that fell across our lane last autumn (picture #6 here). Under one of the branches, I discovered five small eggs, each about 1.4-1.5 cm long. Since I had already disturbed them, I decided to collect them and see if they would hatch. I placed them on a layer of leafmould in a small plastic terrarium (actually an empty animal cracker container from Costco). After spraying water on the walls of the terrarium to keep humidity high without soaking the eggs, I put it in the shade on our screen porch.
All five eggs hatched yesterday, and they proved to be the eggs of a skink (Plestiodon species, formerly Eumeces).
There are three very similar Plestiodon species in our part of North Carolina: Plestiodon fasciatus (five-lined skink), Plestiodon inexpectatus (southeastern five-lined skink), and Plestiodon laticeps (broad-headed skink). The hatchlings of all three species are virtually identical, distinguished mainly by scale counts.
In the garden, I most frequently see Plestiodon skinks clinging to the foundation of our house, on the wooden deck, or at the edge of the driveway, where they patrol for insects even when the concrete is hot enough to burn bare feet . The vivid blue tails and neat yellow stripes of the juveniles are always a welcome sight.
After admiring the little hatchlings, we released them into the garden with the hope that they will grow fat on insect pests and avoid hungry birds.