Monday, 8 August 2016

Water shrew

For the past week I have been trying to get photos of a water shrew for James at the Natural History Society of Northumbria.  Until two weeks ago I had never seen a water shrew but then I saw five in one afternoon that were caught in Longworth traps for a census, before quickly being released.  The water shrew (Neomys fodiens) has venomous saliva and hunts its prey underwater.  It is the largest British shrew, the others being the common shrew (Sorex aranius) and the pygmy shrew (Sorex minutus). 

Because water shrews are very elusive and move at high speed I have been using a trail camera with a close-focus lens and tempting them with dried mealworms.  Getting the photos has been an interesting challenge but very frustrating.  On the occasions when a shrew has been in the right place it was usually facing the wrong way or moving too fast.  Most pictures were out of focus (the depth of field this close is very small) or blurred or silhouetted because the light was wrong.  When it rained the lens got splashed with mud and the lens steamed up overnight, presumably because the camera cooled down more than the mud.  And the infrared is too strong at night - I tried blanking out some of the light but then the tape fell off across the lens!  I didn't manage any usable nighttime shots.  Here are a few others from daytime.  One thing I learnt was that the light needs to be good for this camera.

This photo was all the better for being photobombed by a young water rail.

And by this stage the shrew was bored by the whole business.

I was concentrating on still photos but here is a brief video clip.  One shrew is munching happily when a second smaller one comes into the picture, presumably a young one.  It steals a mealworm and is chased away.

1 comment:

  1. You worked hard for these photos! Fascinating creature,