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A Western skink and other blue wildlife I observed at Ririe Reservoir this week

Living the Wild Life

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Photos: Bill Schiess |

While retrieving my friend’s truck and boat trailer after a morning of fishing this week at Ririe Reservoir, I saw a piece of turquoise blue moving on a rock. The beautiful blue “thing” happened to be the tail of a small Western skink – the first one that I have ever seen. It was the latest blue colored creature that has entertained me this past year.

“What is your article going to be about this week?” Mike had asked me while fishing.

“I am working on all the blue colored birds that I have seen this last year,” I answered.

After showing Mike the picture of the skink, he said, “Now you have another blue thing you can add to the story.”

I don’t know much about skinks, but the blue-colored birds started showing up early last winter with multiple Blue and Steller’s jays appearing at many feeding stations from Howe to Teton Valley and Ashton to Idaho Falls. Blue jays are rare occurrences while Steller’s are fairly common.

As the wet spring turned into early wet summer, some very rare blue-colored birds showed up. An Indigo bunting made an appearance in Hibbard, west of Rexburg, with one beautiful male set up house protecting chores at Camas National Wildlife Refuge. He is still there and it appears that he has hooked up with a female Lazuli bunting as no reports of seeing a female Indigo have come in.

My only problems with getting close pictures of him are that he protects a grove of willows about 200 yards away from the road, and I am not willing to walk out there. The area is closed for human traffic until July 15 and twice I have observed a rattlesnake over four feet long with 12 buttons in that area. Tallgrass with a poisonous snake lurking about is not my idea of fun. I just hope that one day I will catch Mr. Indigo near the road near the old homestead building for a photo.

The other rare blue-colored birds at Camas are a pair of Blue grosbeaks at the south end of the autoroute. The female appears to be nesting while most days the male may be observed in the willows singing and feeding during the day. His cloak of royal blue and tan markings on his wings and back makes him very handsome indeed.

I love to set up a chair on a closed road for auto travel, watch the clump of willows that he frequents often as he chases the common blue-backed Lazuli males and Red-winged blackbirds from certain bushes. Sometimes he appears very shy, while on other days he puts on quite a show. When the female hatches out the eggs and the young start learning to fly, I hope to be there to observe for a few hours.

The two other species of blue-colored birds that I love to watch are the Mountain bluebirds and the Tree swallows. They are very common on the north and west sides of Henrys Lake where they compete for the nest boxes placed on fence posts. Their aerial battles are classic and when the male and female bluebirds are away from the nest hunting for food, often times the female swallow will slip into the nest box. I wonder how many swallows the bluebirds hatch out.

I am excited for nesting of the blue-colored birds to end and for my raspberries to ripen because I have some Lazuli buntings nesting in my yard. I will share my berries with them. About six years ago, I also had a Lazuli/Indigo cross visit my berry patch for a few days and would love to see that happen again.

While you are social distancing in the wilds, look for a flash of blue. It could be a bird or maybe even a rare sighting of a juvenile Western skink with its bright blue tail.