New Trip Report: England
Here’s a new report from Vladimir Dinets.
England, 2018: Vladimir Dinets, 10 days with species including Badgers, Water and Pygmy Shrews and Exmoor Ponies.
Hi Vladimir, I know the UK is rather depleted when it comes to mammals but I wouldn’t say that seeing an Exmoor Pony – a domestic ‘horse’ (albeit an ancient breed) would be a highlight of a mammal watching visit to Britain! But each to their own I guess. Water Voles and Water Shrews aside (presumably the Water Shrews were in the water or at the waters edge) how did you identify the mice/voles/shrews you saw to species using an image intensifier? I ask because a friend who uses one says he finds it near on impossible to id rodents/shrews. Is it a matter of more practice/experience? To be fair on him it isn’t always that easy to id rodents/shrews in a spotlight or car headlights.
Can you guide me how you got your 10 Water Shrews? I’ve found it almost impossible to get satisfactory views of this species. ATB
John, sorry, I didn’t notice your comment until Jon brought it to my attention. Of course, it’s nearly impossible to ID a small mammal to species if you only see it with a thermal imager. So the trick is to use the imager to find it and get close, then turn on visible light and hope to see the animal well before it disappears. Using weak red light improves your chances, but still many sightings remain unidentified (I don’t mention them in trip reports). In the UK it’s not such a big problem because almost all genera have just one or few species and they are easy to ID even based on a glimpse, but in high-diversity places this can be very frustrating. I am now trying to make a flashlight with the option of slowly increasing light intensity from zero, and hope that it will not spook small mammals as quickly as turning the light on suddenly.
Also, it helps a lot if you can snap a photo (even poor quality) before the animal disappears, but this is very difficult if you are alone because juggling the imager, the flashlight, and the camera at the same time is near impossible. The only small mammals I managed to photograph in England on that trip were some wood mice.
Water shrews actually were not all near water, but they are the only large shrew species in the UK (except for some small islands), and they move differently from Sorex shrews, so even if I didn’t see them well I would be able to ID them just by imager viewing. The good thing about low-diversity places like the UK is that getting a reliable ID is much easier 🙂
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How did you get a walking permit to visit Wytham Woods Nature Reserve? Their website says they will only mail them to a UK address?