That Bird Vanished!…a shrew-d sighting — by Jan

That bird vanished! I was sitting in my favorite place at the bird-feeder window. My eyes were drawn by the movement of the dark gray back of a junco under the hopper feeder near the house. Before my eyes could focus on the familiar shape, it was GONE! It didn’t fly away suddenly. Not caught by a diving hawk. Not even time for my eye to blink. Just VANISHED – like magic! Couldn’t have been a junco! I was starting to tell Bill about the bird that wasn’t there when I glimpsed it again a foot to the right in the grass. Again, before I could focus and analyze the shape – it wasn’t there!

Searching around I noticed a slight wiggle of the matted grass just to the right. Then a half-seen dark gray shape, not quite perceived before it vanished. More shaking of the tangled grass. Maybe a form. Movement closer to the house. More shaking. Another grass patch trembled even nearer. Then nothing. My eyes quickly scanned the nearby lawn, back and forth, feeder to house, hoping my peripheral vision could catch more action telling me where it had gone. But nothing. It was gone.

With Bill’s help, I put together the clues and then smiled knowing I had been lucky enough to see (sort of) a rare sight: the seed-gathering of a Northern Short-tailed Shrew.

Three things make this sighting especially notable. First, these shrews are primarily carnivorous, so seeing them gathering seeds is uncommon. Then, they commonly forage for a few hours after sunset or on a cloudy day. So spotting my feeder shrew just after noon on a sunny day was remarkable. Finally, actually seeing a shrew at all is extremely rare since most of their food (insects, earthworms, voles, snails, other shrews, salamanders and mice) can be obtained underground or at least under the cover of vegetation. They work hard to remain hidden and to avoid becoming food themselves.

I smiled and wished him (or her) well, knowing that just as it gathers seeds from our feeders, some of our birds gather shrews…hawks are part of the food pyramid of Nature, too.

Shorttail Shrew

Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda) (c) Bill Beatty








View the comments to see another great shrew story by Gwen.

4 thoughts on “That Bird Vanished!…a shrew-d sighting — by Jan

  1. Thanks so much, Jan! Please permit me to relate a shrew story of my own: Many years ago on a sunny day in late October I was sitting on a stone step on my hillside lawn cracking & eating black walnuts. I always missed a few nut pieces; some others tasted “off” and I swept those aside with my hand. Out of the corner of my eye I saw some small, blink-of-an-eye movement only about a foot or so from my work area. It happened again–and maybe the 3rd time I saw the slate-gray velvet critter who was popping out of a small hole in the bank, grabbing the nut pieces and retreating at about the count of “one”! I started placing nut pieces for him/her—gradually setting the pieces closer to me so I could get a better look at the little guy’s whole body. This was way before digital camera or computers—so I brought a field guide out with me and soon identified him as a Short-tailed Shrew. And to keep this story short, “Sparkey” and I became walnut-eating companions the rest of that fall back in the mid-1970’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great story! I’m glad you shared it. What a nice friendship. I will have to see about tempting a small friend to share with me, too. Thanks, Gwen!


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