November 13, 2013Autumn definitely kicked in with colours exploding from the trees as it were. That means small critters are on the lookout to either fatten themselves up or gain some new goodies for their stockpile, before entering hibernation. Not so for this wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) however who will be active most of the winter, though they can fall into some kind of torpor when winter is very severe. I photographed this lovely specimen in our own backyard for a commission. We named it Miss Daisy, since… well, do we really need to have a valid reason? Sufficient to say the name fits our current life stage, with our living room being slowly overtaken by brightly coloured cuddly toys ;)
Anyway, small mammals are very fun to study and observe. In the past I did some field surveys in which I captured small mammals with Longworth life traps in order to establish whether there was a relation between small mammals and grazed and non-grazed areas. Longworth life traps are a very humane way of capturing small mammals for scientific purposes. Animals are released relatively fast once measurements have been taken and stress is kept at a minimal. These field surveys also included my only stint as a barber of small mammals… with nail scissors our little hairy friends where given a modest bald spot, to distinguish between new and recaptured specimens.
Besides capturing several vole and mice species we were also keen in studying shrew species. Among others we captured the Eurasian pygmy shrew (Sorex minutus), one of the smallest mammals in Europe. A very funky shrew weighting about 4 grams, but with a feisty attitude: repeatedly trying to get their tiny teeth into my fingers and failing completely. Anyway…. good memories! Our gardens can be a real haven for wildlife, as long as we don’t completely cover them with paving-stones! Check out the website of BBC Wildlife Magazine to find out about attracting wildlife to your garden.