The Recorder - Talking about Nature: Little Surprise: The Short-Tailed Shrew

The Recorder – Talking about Nature: Little Surprise: The Short-Tailed Shrew

As September drew to a detailed, my efforts to gather as many hen notes as doable paid off. By some means, even if faculty was beginning once more and my time was restricted to weekends solely, I used to be capable of set a brand new document for the variety of species noticed. The earlier document, set in 2021, was 50 species. As of scripting this specific column, I’ve scored 52 species and all of it goes again to the time I spent in my considering chair.

This may occasionally shed some gentle on the qualities of birds that make them so attention-grabbing to observe. All that point, whereas compiling a listing of 52 species of birds, I solely managed to see 6 species of mammals. On two events I’ve seen an oriental cotton squirrel, on three events I’ve seen a purple squirrel, on two events I’ve seen a grey squirrel and on one event I’ve seen a meadow mare. Then there was someday I seen a squirrel on the seed. These 5 mammalian species are species one would usually anticipate to see in a location the place brief grass and hen seed can be found, so nothing was notably shocking on this listing.

However the place was the gazelle? Why have I by no means seen a fox, coyote, raccoon, opossum, skunk, bobcat, or weasel of some type? The straightforward reply is: I do not know. Maybe my presence, although calm, continues to be daring sufficient to warn these species. Or, extra possible, these species are fewer in quantity and don’t have any specific cause to stroll the aisles fairly often. Possibly if I put a motion-sensitive digital camera on my considering chair, I might see every kind of mammals at totally different instances of the day. Who have you learnt?

However there was a sixth species of mammal that made a shock go to on two events final month. In the identical spot of brief grass the place I lay the seeds for the singing sparrows and the place I’ve seen earlier than by meadow mice, one other species of mammal confirmed an curiosity within the meals I put there. It was a short-tailed shrew (Blarinabrevicauda) and its habits indicated the superb worth of hen seed as a meals supply.

The short-tailed shrew is an animal that falls right into a class referred to as “insect eaters”. The dimensions of a mouse or mouse is roughly the identical because the physique kind of a short-tailed shrew, a very totally different one. As a substitute of being chubby, the shrew is extra slender and slender. Coated in brief grey hairs harking back to velvet, the shrews even have very small ears and really small eyes that could be about to turn into vestigial.

The rationale for all these bodily traits turns into clear when you think about the weight loss plan of shrews and their method of foraging. The short-tailed shrew is basically carnivorous, with a particularly excessive metabolism that requires it to eat as much as 3 times its physique weight every day.

Shrews are predatory predators and this specific species likes to spend most of its time underground the place it may well discover worms, bugs, and different small animals to feed on. To assist it ship its prey, the tigress comprises toxic saliva. In essence, a shrew is the mammalian equal of a rattlesnake and its chunk comprises sufficient venom to paralyze an animal barely bigger than it’s. Thus, mice, rats and even different shrews should be cautious if hungry shrews are wandering.

However even if shrews are carnivores, and even if their tooth are tailored to killing and consuming animal prey, plainly a metabolism of such a excessive price would power a shrew to eat no matter else it may need. Edible and out there. Which means the edible fungi will probably be consumed and, luckily, the birds’ seeds will even be devoured. I can not think about that there’s a lot distinction between a small beetle and a sunflower seed. Each have laborious shells and one thing scrumptious hidden inside.

So, whereas watching the birds come and go, I discover one other little customer speeding out and in of the tall grass to grab the seeds and eat them within the extra personal darkness of the bushes. The shrew is a small, susceptible species that faces excessive predation from owls and a variety of mammalian predators, however the want for meals is so nice {that a} shrew merely can not go up a possibility when it finds one thing extremely nutritious mendacity there. All I needed to do was level the digital camera and take what regarded like a whole bunch of photographs till I lastly obtained one picture displaying some particulars. For those who ignore the truth that I used to be sitting on a moist plastic chair early on a Sunday morning when the temperature was solely 42 levels, it was a chunk of cake.

Invoice Danielson has been knowledgeable author and nature photographer for 25 years. He has labored for the Nationwide Park Service, the US Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy, and the Massachusetts State Parks, and is at present educating highschool biology and physics. For extra data, go to their web site at, or head to the Talking of Nature on Fb.

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