Life's Little Moments

By dbifulco

New Tenant

Having a dog-free day (Jax went to day care today), I spent some time pottering around outside.  I put some seeds out for the endless stream of titmice, nuthatches and chickadees and sat in a shady spot (having to stay out of the sun today because of the doxy I took yesterday) enjoying the soft chatters of the birds.  It's enormously calming to just sit and "be".  

So there I was in my most zen-like state when I caught a small glimpse of silver-hued fur in the garden.  So fast that I thought I was mistaken...until it streaked out again to grab a seed on the patio wall.  Short tail, long slender body and very, very small.  Smaller in fact, than our normal mice.  I quickly assumed my stance, camera held as still as possible, and waited.  I think I took at least 50 shots and none of them came out well.  For starters, it's hard for the camera (or the photographer) to see the beedy little eyes in order to focus.  And secondly, they are lightening fast - out and right back in in 2-3 seconds.  

Anyway...this is a Northern Short Tailed Shrew and he's a very interesting little mammal.  Here are some fun facts
-They aren't rodents, but are more closely related to hedgehogs and moles
-They are the only venomous mammal in the United States (!!)
-They use echolocation to "see" their way around, like bats
-They are omnivores meaning that they eat both "meat" and plant matter. Their diet consists mainly of insects and invertebrates but they can and do also eat small birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles
-Their hearts beat 800-1200 times per minute (faster than a hummingbird) and they must eat several times their body weight each day to survive
-They have 32 razor-sharp little teeth.

And I have one living in the garden!  Interestingly, there was a young chipmunk also in the garden eating the same seeds and the two mammals seemed to disregard each other.  I wonder, however, if the shrew was hungry enough, would it eat and kill a chipmunk?  

I had another really fun discovery today in another part of the garden which was not one, but two red-backed salamanders.  What was really cool was that one was the red-backed phase and the other was the lead-backed phase.  I will put a shot in Extra so you can see the difference.  Since salamanders are territorial, I assume these are young and not yet defending their space.  They were sheltered under a slab of slate so I will check back tomorrow to see if one or both are still there - maybe even get a better photo...

So that's the news from my little corner of the earth.  I've already indulged in some dark chocolate truffle today - yum.


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