|A Meadow Vole peeks out from one of many hiding places at the blind|
I often get a nice variety of small rodents around one of our beaver dams. They come over to the blind in order to partake of the bird seed that I put down there. A few months ago, I wrote a blog entry about the Jumping Mice that were showing up at this same place after sunset. But while the sun is still up, it's mostly shrews and Meadow Voles that come. In fact there is a little Short-tailed Shrew scurrying around at my feet right now. It’s interesting to see how he varies his route over to the seed every other time or so. I imagine that he's trying not to be too predictable in case there's a predator watching - or someone with a camera.
|The Short-tailed Shrew looks a bit like a gray furry bullet|
|Including its short tail, the meadow Vole is about 5.5 inches long|
There's probably not a prettier little animal than a Meadow Vole. They have a stout round look and a gentle mouse-like face with round furry ears. They also have a rich brown coat with reddish highlights. On the other hand the Short-tailed shrew is a strange looking little being with very indistinct facial features - especially when viewed from directly above. In fact this animal looks a bit like a fuzzy bullet. They are uniformly silvery gray. They also have pointed faces that look like they have spent some time in a pencil sharpener. OK, so they are not that attractive, but I can just imagine what I look like to them. Actually, I suspect that to them, I look like a pair of shoes.
|Both the Meadow Vole and the Short-tailed Shrew have relatively short tails|
|At 4 inches long with a 1"tail, the Northern Short-tailed Shrew is our largest Shrew|
The diets of these 2 small rodents are for the most part quite different; while the Meadow Vole feeds on a wide variety of plant material, the Shrew eats mostly insects - some it will paralyze with its poisonous saliva and store for later use. Obviously both species appreciate sunflower seeds and peanuts. When they come to feed at the same time, it's obvious that the vole and the shrew don't get along very well and too frequently they become involved in yelling matches. They don't actually get into physical fighting, but they only sound as if they're going at it. Their vocalizations are very harsh. The sound is like something between an old door creaking and the noise made by handling Styrofoam. I'm not sure which creature is responsible for the bulk of this noise, but I suspect it's that shrew.
|Looking a bit like a mouse herself, the Ermine or Short-tailed Weasel preys mainly on mice|
|There's a weasel on the move|
I just watched the Vole run off and this time it went right to the beaver dam and disappeared into a crevice.There are a million places for a mouse to hide out in in a beaver dam and that’s true for a beaver lodge as well. That's one of the reasons that predators like to hunt on beaver dams. Weasels like the Ermine and the Mink are particularly well suited for hunting on a beaver dam. Their extremely thin bodies allow them to enter some of the most narrow crevices and mouse burrows.
|Later in the fall the Ermine will turn completely white except for a black tip on the end of its tail|
|Possibly the weasel was attracted to the site by the noise made by the shrew and the vole|
|The female Short-tailed Weasel is between 5 and 8 inches long. The male is slightly longer|
I saw an Ermine (AKA: Short-tailed Weasel) on the beaver dam a few days ago. She was threading herself through the piles branches and logs that make up the back side of the dam. At one point her attention turned to the blind. Evidently she must have recently seen or heard the small rodent activity that takes place there and so she thought she might try her luck at catching something. After comically popping just her head out of several different rotten logs near the blind, she finally got the nerve to run past me. She blasted over to the post where most of the seed is placed and quickly investigated all of the little nooks where the Chipmunks, sparrows and and mice scurry in and out from.
|Weasels can fly? Well, not really, but they can jump pretty well|
|Another kind of weasel that hunts on the beaver dam is the Mink|
|Don't let this tough guy ever catch you in some dark back alley|
|An immature Sharp-shinned Hawk is trying to scare up something on the beaver dam|
|Swamp Sparrows are occasionally hanging out on the dam these day|
|Song Sparrows are the most commonly occurring species near the beaver pond|