Friday 17 April 2015

Distracted by a Shrew

Bovingdon Brickworks (BMT): I spent this morning at the Brickworks in pursuit of mining bees and Dotted Bee-flies (Bombylius discolor). I got slightly distracted by a freshly dead Common Shrew (Sorex araneus), lying on the path. There wasn't any sign of injury but, like the Common Toads from earlier in the month, the main defence mechanism of this little mammal is to secrete a foul tasting liquid from glands in the skin. Predators can quickly abandon them without tucking in.

Unless you have a license to trap and handle live mammals, it's rare you get to see these creatures up close. I wouldn't wish it dead but, since it was, I took the opportunity to check out and photograph its main features.

Common Shrew (Sorex araneus). Body = 70mm long (against my little finger), tail = 35mm (0.5 x length of body)

Pointed nose, small eyes and ears

Alternative view of the long, pointed nose & tiny eyes

Red-tipped teeth

Back feet (from above)

Back feet (from below)

Back foot (from the side)

Front feet
5 Facts About Common Shrews (Sorex araneus)
  1. They rarely live beyond 12 months
  2. They feed on insects but also eat earthworms and small slugs and snails
  3. They don't hibernate but during the winter they actually shrink to make survival easier
  4. Their main predators are Tawny Owls, Barn Owls and larger mammals
  5. During breeding, if the nest is disturbed or the mother wants to train the young, they form a "caravan". Each shrew grasps the base of the tail (or rump) of the one in front of it, forming a caravan of little shrews all running along behind the mother!
The Mammal Society have a great leaflet on Common Shrews HERE, if you'd like to know more.

As for the mining bees, there was plenty of activity but I'll need to sort out IDs etc before posting. No sign yet of the Common Whitethroats but a Willow Warbler was singing.


  1. Poor little shrew! He/she is very sweet. Interesting facts and detailed photographic record of its little body. From ARF

    1. Thanks ARF. S/he really was very sweet indeed and didn't live or die in vain. Next time, I hope I see a live one with her caravan of little'ns


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