Trailcam IR Critters – Edible Dormouse and Pine Marten

This is a video I made using the Redleaf 1000 trailcam in my attic and garden. It shows the Edible Dormouse and the Pine Marten in better quality than the photos.

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Common Shrew trailcam IR

Common Shrew trailcam IR

Here’s another species to add to my attic menagerie, and one I wasn’t expecting to find – the Common Shrew (Sorex araneus). I’ve found them frozen to death in my kitchen during winter before but I’ve no idea how it got into the attic.

I’ve had several encounters of the painful variety with these little beasts in the past. Being insectivores rather than herbivores, they bite. They may be tiny but every time I’ve tried to pick one up I’ve ended up with a bloody finger. I once found a very sad sight – a dead mother shrew with a horde of tiny bald, pink babies still trying to suckle her. I can’t even begin to describe how miniscule they were.

River picnic

River picnic

The other night while out looking for suitable places to set my trailcam, I discovered this beautiful stretch of river out in the bush. The next day we decided to go on a picnic there and my brother and his girlfriend joined us. It amazes me that even within a short distance from my house I can still find new places I haven’t seen yet. We had a small fire on the bank and cooked bacon on sticks, and both the kids and dog had the chance to swim a bit –  a welcome respite from the 30 degree centigrade plus heat.

It was a bit of a gypsy holiday but it goes to show that you don’t need to spend lots of money, nor have lots of equipment, to have a fun day out. Judging by the tracks lining the river bank, I wouldn’t like to be there at night though….

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis

I haven’t seen one of these for a while. This European Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa) was under the plastic sheet covering a pile of gravel I have in the garden. Freaky, alien creatures….

Years back, in Portugal, I kept one as a pet and the only thing it wouldn’t eat was a Cicada – but they’re even scarier…..

Pine Marten infra red trail cam

Pine Marten infra red trail cam

We get two types of Marten around the house, the Pine marten (Martes martes) and the Beech Marten (Martes foina); the one in my attic is the Beech Marten. I’ve been trying for years to get a photo of a Pine Marten – I often see them in the forest but by the time I’ve got my camera out of its case they’ve scarpered. I’ve got lots of footage of a dark blur disappearing into the distance.

I’m really getting into the setting of the trail cam in different locations. Locals here often ask me why I don’t hunt (I did when I was young but don’t anymore). For me, taking photos of animals is equivalent to shooting them except they get to live another day. Using a trail cam is very similar to setting a trap as it requires studying the environment and discerning tracks and other information – plus it doesn’t harm the animal. Some times all the signs are there – for example, last night I had the trail cam set up in a perfect wild boar latrine in the forest next to a dry creek bed, surrounded by game trails and wallows, but I caught nothing. The boar must have moved to a different location, for whatever reason. I ended up covered head to toe in bites, from ants, mosquitoes, fleas or some other bug, and both setting the camera up and retrieving it was a very nerve wracking experience because i didn’t know if a large boar would charge me from behind, but it’s quite an addictive adrenaline-filled activity. I’m already planning where to put it tonight – a few kilometres walk across meadow and then deep into the bush, choosing which height to set it at depending on what game i want to ‘trap’… good fun.

Young Smooth Snake

Young Smooth Snake

This year we’ve had many Smooth snakes (Coronella austriaca) – they seem to have replaced the Slow Worm although they don’t eat slugs. They’re non-venomous and nowhere near as aggressive as Grass snakes. From a distance they’re colouring and pattern make them appear as Adders but upon closer inspection they can be easily differentiated due to round pupils, a horizontal facial stripe passing through the eye, smooth skin and a double dot patten rather than a diamond or zig zag running the length of their spine.

Edible Dormouse trail cam

Edible Dormouse trail cam

Most people go to sleep to the sound of traffic and sirens; my family goes to sleep when at the house to the sounds of an entire menagerie of wild creatures a few feet above our heads. The attic is home to a multitude of beasties including quite a few nests of bees, hornets and various wasp species. The constant nocturnal crick-crick of the  larvae of wood boring beetles as they gnaw away the beams, the scratching of the two different species of mice, and the whooshing of the bats. However, I set up a trail cam (a Redleaf RD1000) in order to film the most annoying and destructive resident, the Stone Marten (Martes foina), who has turned my entire attic floor into a giant latrine and who sounds like a man running around when its pursuing mice. The noise and mess it makes are incredible – they’re a common pest to attics out here. Unfortunately, since I’ve been using a new fan to cool off the bedroom, the Marten hasn’t visited, possibly because of the sound. I will get him eventually.

One pleasant surprise I found on the trailcam is an Edible Dormouse (Glis glis), a foot-long rodent which looks something between a squirrel and a chinchilla. Bizarrely, as a defence mechanism, like reptiles (as I’ve witnessed in the garden with slow worms and lizards) they can consciously lose part of their exquisitely bushy tail and regrow it. The locals call these critters plch.

Note – I’ve got much better and clearer IR video footage of the dormouse but I can’t edit it because my graphics card doesn’t support the new codec. Really need to get a new PC….