Thursday, December 18, 2008

(No, not the jet, That's SST.
And not the 60s radical student group either. Thats SDS.)

Last evening, just as the sun was starting to set behind the western hills, I looked out at the bird feeders and spotted something on the ground. My first thought was that it was a Dark-eyed Junco for it was slate gray, but then I noticed it lacked a bird's tail and it certainly wasn't behaving like a bird. I knew what it was immediately: a Northern Short-tailed Shrew, Blarina brevicauda. It was interesting to see it out and about during the day on top of the snow. You can sometimes see the tunnels they make beneath the surface of the snow and, perhaps, this one was trying to dig under the surface but it was too icy and too thin for much success. One thing is certain, this shrew is not a nocturnal critter. Its metabolism runs too high for it to go wasting daylight in hiding and sleep. It needs food and lots of it to stay alive. It must have been famished to risk going out where even a Blue Jay could make a quick meal out of it.

It wasn't moving about much and I thought it might be ill. I grabbed the camera and ventured forth to photograph the little mammal before a wandering feral feline or an avian predator ended what ever it was doing permanently. As I approached I could see that while it looked motionless from a distance, its front paws were digging frantically in the snow beneath the tray feeder. What it hoped to find there, I have no idea. The ground is pretty frozen and, to the best of my knowledge, the shrews eat meat not sunflower seeds. After all, why else would they have poison glands and saliva if not to subdue another animal?

Short-tailed Shrew

I managed to snap the one photo and then reached out to touch the critter hoping to get a better view.(Mean, really, how much do you want to see a shrew's butt? I was hoping for little, black, beady eyes and maybe a hissing snarl showing lots of sharp teeth with their reddish coloring. something vicious would be the ticket!)

Well! It might have been acting sluggish as it dug in the snow but my touch lit a fire under it! It scampered off into the rocks, zig-zagging as it went over the snow's surface, dove beneath one rock which had an edge levered up to create a miniature cave, and that was that.

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