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Thursday, 15 October 2020

A Shrew in the Backyard

     I know that many of us have discovered hitherto unknown treasures in our backyards during the pandemic, but none caused me greater surprise - or envy that I missed the sighting - than when Miriam showed me pictures of a shrew that had been visiting the yard.
     Most of the shrews that I have ever seen have been dead, and I doubt that I have seen more than twenty living, breathing individuals in my life.

 
    These voracious little creatures have an extremely high metabolism and spend most of their time eating, with brief bouts of sleep. They are fearless and will attack and consume almost anything they can subdue.  Many species have poisonous salivary secretions to assist in rendering their prey helpless.
     I have very little familiarity with shrews, but based on the research I have been able to do, and the likelihood of a given species being in our area, I believe this visitor is a Masked or Cinereus Shrew (Sorex cinereus). If anyone with expertise in this taxon is able to confirm or refute this conclusion I would appreciate their input.

  
    Shrews are intolerant even of their own species and will readily fight with a degree of savagery that is truly remarkable. Females will not tolerate the presence of a mate except when rearing young.


     According to Banfield (1984) the principal prey items of Masked Shrew are 65% insects (adults, larvae, pupae and eggs), 7% vertebrates (salamanders and young mice), and 7% centipedes, worms, molluscs, sowbugs, with vegetable matter accounting for the balance of its diet. Other than salamanders, I suspect that most of these items could be readily found in suburbia.


     It was a distinctly unusual visitor and most welcome I must say. I am just sorry that I missed it.
     Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis) returned from their breeding territories a week or so ago, and are now regular visitors beneath the feeders, where obliging goldfinches and sparrows knock down seed for them. 



     The Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) we planted about fifteen years ago is now taller than the house, and we will need to trim a couple of branches lest they find their way into our bedroom! The colour at this time of year is reason enough to make a Sugar Maple part of your landscaping.



     Anyone familiar with Canada's flag will recognize the inspiration for our national symbol.

     And looking our from the deck towards the front of the house, autumnal splendour is equally on display.


      A White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) pays little heed to the colours, spending its time gathering and caching food for the winter ahead.


   
 Western Conifer-seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis) is a beautifully patterned but unwelcome visitor.


     It feeds on the developing seeds within the cones of pines and other conifers. Injured seeds fail to develop properly and seed production can be greatly reduced. 
     In recent years this strikingly marked insect has developed the habit of entering homes in the fall. It poses no threat and does not bite or sting, but is likely not welcomed in most residences.
     Had the shrew and the bug been present at the same time, I am confident that the shrew would have dined on a conifer-seed bug that day! 
    

60 comments:

  1. It’s good to see you back already David. Hope you are fine.
    The colours of the Sugar Maple are fabulous. The part about the shrew, called ‘spitsmuis’ in Dutch, is interesting. I never knew they were so voracious..

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  2. Hello,
    I have never seen a Shrew, they are cute little critters. The Dark-eyed Junco should be arriving here soon, they are cute. Love the pretty leaves. I just saw a similar bug outside our house today, I hope it becomes food for some kind of animal. Take care! Have a great day!

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  3. I have never seen shrews here but I have seen voles. Interesting that I saw a Conifer-seed Bug here only the other day.

    Hope all is well with the eyes. Take care Diane

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  4. We have had a couple of shrews on our front porch, thanks to cats.
    Yes, I hope your eyeballs are good! I'm still getting used to mine...

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  5. I am surprised and very pleased to see you back at the PC so soon. I have missed you and hope that your operations were a stunning success.
    Love the arboreal splendour you have given us, and indeed the whole post from beginning to end.
    Thank you (and Miriam).

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    1. I am able to get back on the computer, Sue, but this post was scheduled before I had the surgery. So far recovery seems to be proceeding well.

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    2. I am so very glad to hear that your recovery is going well.

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  6. Hopefully everything went well for your operation and your on the road to recovery. I have never seen a shrew and didn't realize that they could be so vicious. Love the Sugar Maple, its autumn colour is so pretty. Have a wonderful evening, David.

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  7. hello David
    Shrew and sugar maple are very nice to look at, but better to hear is that you are better
    stay healthy
    Greetings Frank

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  8. Those maples are glorious! I live vicariously through these pictures. Shrews are interesting little creatures. Too bad that you missed this visit but maybe you'll get another chance. When I was growing up I always looked forward to the arrival of the "snowbirds" which is what we called the Juncoes. Such lovely little birds. They seldom make it to where I live now.

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    1. Yes, I can't imagine Juncos making it as far south as Texas. They will be with us all winter here,

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  9. Not sure I like the Skrew, but like the Junco :) And the beautiful bug.

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  10. Mice have been our backyard companions. We are working hard to keep them out of the house. I’ve only ever seen one live shrew and could barely stifle a scream.

    The juncos are little beauties!

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  11. Hola David, me alegra leerte. Preciosas e interesantes fotos. En mi huerta les tengo una casita y la usan para pasar el invierno, tienen bastante mal carácter y no las molesto porque si no se van y son de gran ayuda en la huerta. Un enorme abrazo para ti y para Miriam.

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  12. Neat to see a (living) Shrew! No Juncos here yet.

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  13. I've never seen a shrew, but plenty of stinkbugs.

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  14. Love the Fall coloured leaves and most interesting about the shrew. Presume your operation went well.

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  15. David - I have only seen a shrew once, and that was on a hike in the UK. Fascinating creatures. Now that Conifer Seed Bug is another story - I will have to take a closer look at the ones that come in the house - I am pretty sure we have one or two of those fellows about each week at this time of year! I thought it was a stink bug ...

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  16. Interesting learning about the shrew. The fall leaves are beautiful! The juncos will be showing up around here soon as well. Though I hope not too soon as my dad always called them snow birds. Not ready for any snow. Stinkbugs are awful around here this year. Hope you are recovering well from your surgery.

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  17. Magic autumn colours with those leaves. Thanks for sharing as we don't see quite such colour here in autumn.
    Trust your surgery went well!

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  18. Hi David! The only shrew I know is the one in the title of Shakespeare's play! I think that shrew chose your backyard with careful thought, she know she would have a good place there. That conifer bug is very handsome, pity that it is one that causes damage. Hope you are feeling better after the OP. Take care, stay safe. Hugs to you and M, Valerie

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  19. I haven't seen a live Shrew since I was a child, when one running around the school yard caused quite a stir! You wouldn't think something so cute could be so vicious! The Maple is beautiful, the colours in Autumn are my favourite.

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  20. Me alegra verte de nuevo por aquí apreciado amigo, eso significa que todo ha ido de maravilla y que puedes usar el ordenador, fantástica recuperación.
    Nunca he visto una musaraña en la vida real, siempre a través de imágenes y en principio pensaba que eran animalitos tranquilos y algo dóciles, pero por tu comentario se deduce todo lo contrario.
    Ha sido maravillosa esa visita captada y fotografiada por Miriam.
    Ya se empieza a notar la belleza otoñal en Canadá.
    Un fuerte abrazo querido compadre y feliz fin de semana.
    Cuidaros queridos amigos.

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  21. The shrew looks like a mouse, and could be dangerous because of his venomous saliva. So, caution is required.
    The color of your sugar maple is delightful!

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  22. Hi David, beautiful photos of the Shrew. i never saw one. I like the hite-breasted Nuthatch. Thank you for your friendship. Have a nice weekend. Greetings Caroline

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  23. That is a good find to have a shrew visiting the yard. We have dark-eyed juncos every winter, but I have not seen them yet in the gardens this year. I've always thought sugar maples are the most glorious of autumn trees. In the old days a boulevard of sugar maples was a sight to behold. Glad your surgery went well.

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  24. Quand j'habitais chez mes parents, il y'avait beaucoup de musaraignes.
    Les érables ont de belles couleurs, ici à l'était naturel j'ai beaucoup d'érables sycomore et champêtre, ce sont des érables bien différent du votre.
    Et j'aime les érables japonais!
    Les punaises j'en ai plein qui rentre dans ma maison et elles sentent mauvais, une fois ma chienne en a croqué une...Elle a vitre regretté!
    Bon weekend et reposez bien vos yeux!

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  25. Hi David,
    Great Post!
    Regards Maria

    Stay save!!!!

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  26. That shrew is quite a sight to see.

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  27. I have never seen a shrew. Well, at least not one that is an animal. (rodent?) Lots of lovely sightings there. I wonder when I will see my juncos again. And that sugar maple -- glorious and a wonderful shot!

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    1. And you would have a hard time taming this one, Jeanie.

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  28. Always enjoy your photographs.
    That sugar maple is wonderful, what glorious colours.

    All the best Jan

    PS Hope your recovery is going well.

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  29. Munca ví una musaraña David. Y en España hay y una frase para cuando uno está distraido, se dice que "está mirando las musarañas" :))
    Precioso color se otoño. Cuídate.
    Un abrazo.

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  30. I've never seen a shrew, it is an unusual looking creature that looks cuddly but I guess from your description it is anything but. That bug would certainly get removed if it entered into a house I was living in!! Love your autumnal colours :)

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  31. I've never seen a shrew, but since the female doesn't tolerate the presence of a male I had to immediately think of "The Taming of the Shrew". Good old William.

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  32. How delightful - I have only ever seen one shrew in our garden, but it was dead. It was found in the garden courtesy a neighbours cat who was playing with it by throwing it up in the air on our patio - he left it by the window when he saw me. It was lovely to see but also very sad - a Common Shrew - Sorex araneus with a rich brown coat, but a longer, more pointed snout than yours.

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  33. When I saw your photo of a shrew, I thought it was a mole. There are many moles in my garden now, David. They arrange hills of soil around the burrow. I don't like it - the lawn is deteriorating. I have already hung up the bird feeders for the tits and poured sunflower seeds there.

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  34. I have never known about shrews, but now I get Shakespeare's play although I have never read it, They would be impossible to tame, I would think.

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  35. I haven't seen a book in a long time. Autumn has beautiful colors.
    The photo with the sheepfold is taken from the top of Piscul Cainelui. The sheepfold was in the valley.

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  36. Hello David,
    I have never seen a Shrew, they are cute. I always enjoy seeing your birds, the Junco and the Nuthatches are favorites. I saw my first of the year White-throated Sparrow last night in our yard. The winter birds are arriving. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care and stay well. Have a great day, happy weekend. PS, thank you for leaving me a comment.

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  37. The trees are just gorgeous! Love your Maple tree! I would be pressing leaves in a book! lol And that little Shrew is a neat sighting. What an interesting critter!

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  38. Hi David - so good to read you're on the mend - all the best to a full return fairly soon. Isn't that shrew amazing - great photos ... I was with a goddaughter on one of the chalk downs and a mole popped its nose out at us ... she was about 10 - so we had a good gander ...

    Gorgeous autumn colours you showed us ... stunning - and yes everything's turning here ... lovely - thank you ... all the best - Hilary

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  39. Hello David, hope the operation was succesfull. Glad to see you are active already on blogger. Good sign!
    Great photos of the Shrew you had in your garden. The colouring leaves are most wonderful. The colours of Autumn.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  40. Hi David,

    Ik las in een van je commentaren dat het goed gaat met je oog, dat is fijn om te horen!
    Jammer dat je de spitsmuis niet zelf hebt kunnen zien maar je weet nu dat hij er ergens is en wie weet komt hij nog eens terug om de (mooie) wants op te eten.

    Gezellig die wintergasten die komen eten, hier ook steeds meer.

    Liefs,
    Marianne

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    1. Thanks for your good wishes, Marianne. Everything has gone well and I am looking forward to having the second eye done in November. It is amazing what can be done these days and the whole procedure takes mere minutes. Love, David

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  41. It's like living in a ON PBS nature reserve in your back yard! I enjoyed it all...from the shrew to the beautiful maple tree and of course, the birds!!

    I thank you for your participation at I'd Rather B Birdin this week as always.

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  42. A good meal, the Shrew vs bug. Dark-eyed Junco is special, nice one David.

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  43. Lovely pics. Wanted to let you know that Jo is still struggling, but Matt has been transferred to Freeport so they are both in the same facility. The brain bleed she had seems to have caused some cognie difficulty. I feel bad for her.

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    1. That should have said cognitive, not cognie. I have been forwarding emails about Jo to folks but I do not have yours. If you want, send it to me at msdeniseh553@aol.com and I'll let you know when I hear something.

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  44. I love the photos of the fall leaves! But that shrew...I have NEVER seen one before, what a great capture!

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  45. When I was growing up in England, we had lots of shrews in the garden, more than field mice. I hope your eye surgery went well and you are feeling back to normal.

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  46. Un bonito reportaje de Miriam. Me alegra saber que la operación salió muy bien. Abrazos para Miriam y para ti.

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  47. I can well imagine your excitement (and frustration!) at Miriam finding that shrew, David. Has it returned?

    I knew that Sugar Maple was colourful, but not that colourful. Fabulous!

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  48. Hi David gee I have never seen a shrew before we don't have them in Australia,what a funny creature,great post David take care and stay safe,cheers Sheryl

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