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March 16, 2009

Top O the Day to Ya.

Wait a minute, that's Tuesday isn't it?

Still, a wonderful day full of his blessings to you.

Besides St. Patty's day this week,

We have a day we've all been waiting for.

The first official day of SPRING

At least that's what the calendar tells us.

The weather has been a bit crazy hasn't it been?

Late winter snow storms and blizzards hit the upper plains and Northern Great lakes region and parts of Canada this past week.

A late storm blows through Kentucky and parts of Ohio River Valley.

Thankfully parts of Texas and the south received some much needed rain.

Here, we've had winter temperatures with some of the nights reaching zero degrees, but no snow.

Now I don't want those 3" of white.

3 weeks and no snow here.

Yesterday we had a brush with 60 degrees and full sun...

Now that was a blessing for sure.

Even with the cold, nature knows what time it is.

Canada geese and Mallard ducks fill the skies as they go from pond to pond and to hear the welcome sounds.

Yards are inundated with Red-winged blackbirds (we live near a small wetland) and American robins.

Yes, the chorus of robins from before sun up to past sun set.

Grackles are starting to become a pest in my yard, but that too shall pass.

Fewer cardinals and chickadees visit my yard and feeders, but there are still a few pair for now.

Woodpeckers visit the suet and peanut feeder and are busy drumming away in the nearby woods.

This past Friday I thought I heard a killdeer.

Saturday and Sunday i was blessed with some Sandhill cranes as they lazily make their way North.

To watch hese giant birds, you would think they were drunk as there is no formation are concrete direction as they are in flight.

I always hear them first.

Skunks and raccoons are coming out of hibernation.

With the snow melted, I can see the damage caused by the rabbits over the winter.

Some shrubs I put chicken wire around, but the drifts and piles were so high, that many a shrub received a haircut whether they needed it or not.

Evening walks with the fur kids are more regular now, on the cold evenings they wear sweaters.

Much like some children they want to dispute bundling up.

Seeds that I planted inside are coming up nicely.

If you don't have a heat mat to place trays on to help germinate, you can always place them on top of the fridge where there is some heat

If you have a cable box, place them in a baggie of some sort and place on top of the warm cable box.

Be sure to keep an eye on them.

As soon as seeds begin to poke through, get them in some sun light.

Now, certain seeds need light to germinate.

Salvia is one of those that require light and no top dressing, so be sure to follow instructions.

You may slowly want to work on yard clean up and in the South, get some planting done.

Remember though..................

If the soil is to damp, you are doing more harm than good by walking on and working it.

Always make sure the soil is dry enough, that when you take a handful, it falls apart.

If the hand of dirt stays intact, the dirt is to wet to work.

You wouldn't think so, but there is a molecular structure to dirt and you can destroy it some by messing with it when it is wet.

Take some time on these early spring days and go for a walk.

Smell the fresh air.

I mean really smell it and notice the change of the seasons with every breath you take.

Notice the bird activity

What other wildlife do you see?

Butterflies, deer, a muskrat or maybe a fox running by with its fluffy tail straight out.

Yes, spring is special.

Because spring is so special,

We're going to do a "Spring Special Letter" and you are going to be the star.

That's right............................

The autumn favorites were fun and the Christmas letter was extra special wasn't it?

With many of you sharing.

Lets do the same thing for spring.

A letter with all of your favorites and special moments of spring.

Now for the new readers, here is how it works.

You E-mail me back anything about spring that you are fond of.

It can be your flowers, birds, working in the yard.

Taking walks, the sights, the sounds or even the beginning of baseball season or opening up your pool.

fishing, flowers, you name it.

We have loads of fun with this and you get to participate.


Because this is your letter too.

I don't ask for last names for some obvious reasons.

But, do send me your:

. First Name.

. City you live in or near.

. State or Province.

This way works for everyone.

I hope to get this out the last week of March or first week of April.

With your participation, it will be a great success.

Last week when I was out feeding the birds, I noticed a tiny charcoal gray creature scurry by and into a little hole heading into and under the mulch.

Now I see these little creatures just often enough and I'm well aware of them, but maybe several of you are clueless.

What a terrific topic for a newsletter I thought.

Rarely seen but always there.

Without further ado.

I bring you................


The one animal that has a higher rate of metabolism than the hummingbird.

That is correct, the lowly Shrew?

At rest, the average human heart beats 60 times each minute and goes unnoticed by all but the most attentive.

But if, after exercise or a good scare, your heartbeat jumps to 120 beats per minute, the throbbing grabs your attention.

Now, imagine, if you can, a heart-bursting rate of 1,200 beats per minute, 20 each second, (900 beats while resting) and you have entered the high-speed world of a shrew, one of earth’s most frenetic animals.

At a shrew’s pace, 60 times faster than our own, we’d be bundles of boundless energy, zooming rapidly from place to place.

We’d be hungry all the time, needing constant fuel to maintain such a blistering metabolism.

And we’d die more quickly, for an animal’s average heart rate is related to lifespan: the higher the rate, the shorter the life.

Instead of a 70-year lifespan, we’d live but a year or two in a state of wild abandon.

Shrews do, indeed, live life at a rapid pace. They run everywhere. Something moving as slowly as a human must seem as if it were bound in molasses.

From the shrew’s perspective of time, our movements might seem like the advance of glaciers or the return of spring in Michigan.

Because they are very small and have a high metabolism, shrews eat enormous quantities of food.

Shrews must eat 2.5 to 3 times their own body weight every day and will starve to death if deprived of food overnight.

Hummingbirds consume up to half their weight in sugars a day (not including water).

Indeed, shrews must eat more than even the high energized hummingbird.

The hummingbird identifies and harvests food sources with great but regulated energy, while the shrew forages furiously in a constant battle for survival.

Shrews must eat every 2 hours or starve to death. That means every 2 hours, 24 hours a day.

There is no relaxing for these tine creatures.

Can you imagine getting up every two hours for a middle of the night meal?

When they aren't feeding, they are hunting and storing food for the lean times.

Hummingbirds rest and even can go into a torpid state to reduce energy consumption.

Often called the most ferocious animal alive pound for pound, ounce for ounce, gram for gram etc. The mighty shrew tops them all.

Always there, but rarely seen, shrews are a common mammal throughout most of the globe.

there are desert shrews and swamp or water shrews.

They live in forests, open fields, urban areas and more than likey in your gardens.

Rarely seen, but always present.

The most common shrew through out the country are various vresions of the short talied shrew.

In the North we have the northern short tail shrew.

In parts of the South there is the Southern short tailed shrew and still other regions, there is Elliot,s short tail shrew.

All are similar.

These shrews are known for their aggresive behavior and venomous bite. Yes, one of the few mammals to have a neurotoxin mixed in its saliva to kill or neutralize its prey.

Shrews are classified as in insectivora, not a rodent.

A carnivour.

As the name implies, insects make up a large portion of the typical shrew diet.

Appearance and Venom:

Adult short-tail shrews are four to five inches long and weigh 0.4 to 1.0 ounces. They have a stocky build and short, dense, slate-gray fur.

Their long, pointed noses and small eyes and ears distinguish them from mice.

Short-tail shrews also have a mouthful of 32 sharp teeth and are among the very small number of mammalian species that have venom glands.

Shrew venom is a neurotoxin that is powerful enough to immobilize or even kill small prey species like frogs and mice.

The venom can cause swelling and irritation in larger organisms (like humans).

Notice the teeth to the right, Those are not mouse teeth, but the enlarged picture of a shrew's jaw. A Short tailed shrew fangs.

Yes, the unsuspecting human that may be working in a mulched or leaf littered flowerbed.

The home of many shrews.

Food habit studies have revealed that shrews eat beetles, grasshoppers, butterfly and moth larvae, ichneumonid wasps, crickets, spiders, snails, earthworms, slugs, centipedes, and millipedes.

Shrews also eat small birds, mice, small snakes, and even other shrews when the opportunity presents itself.

Seeds, roots, and other vegetable matter are also eaten by some species of shrews. but not a typical part of the diet.

Short-tail shrews forage very actively in soil and leaf litter and even down into the burrows of other, larger animals.

If slugs and certain insects are a problem, you will welcome shrews to your garden as they consume copious amounts of food.

When you see one, you may think you are seeing a mouse.

Their thick, stocky bodies are well adapted to pushing through dense leaf litter and vegetative debris.

Shrews rely on their excellent senses of smell, touch and hearing to locate food.

Their noses are richly innervated with olfactory receptors, and their snouts have dense groups of vibrissae (whiskers) to aid in tactile sensation.

The shrew is a small, mouse-sized mammal with an elongated snout, a dense fur of uniform color, small eyes, and five clawed toes on each foot.

Its skull, compared to that of rodents, is long, narrow, and lacks the zygomatic arch on the lateral side characteristic of rodents.

The teeth are small, sharp, and commonly dark-tipped.

Pigmentation on the tips of the teeth is caused by deposition of iron in the outer enamel. This deposition may increase the teeth’s resistance to wear, an obvious advantage for permanent teeth that do not continue to grow in response to wear, like the teeth of a rodent.

Shrew feces are often corkscrew-shaped, and some shrews (for example, the desert shrew [Notiosorex crawfordi]) use regular defecation stations.

Shrews are similar to mice except that mice have four toes on their front feet, larger eyes, bicolored fur, and lack an elongated snout.

Moles also are similar to shrews, but are usually larger and have enlarged front feet. Both shrews and moles are insectivores, whereas mice are rodents.

According to Michigan State University,

Worldwide, over 250 species of shrews are recognized, with over 30 species recognized in the United States, the US Territories, and Canada.

General Biology, Reproduction, and Behavior:

The University of Michigan gives you these details.

Shrews are among the world’s smallest mammals.

The pigmy shrew (Sorex hoyi) is the smallest North American mammal. It can weigh as little as 0.1 ounce (2 g).

Because of their small size, shrews have a proportionally high surface-to-volume ratio and lose body heat rapidly.

Thus, to maintain a constant body temperature, they have a high metabolic rate and need to consume food as often as every 2 to 3 hours.

Some shrews will consume three times their body weight in food over a 24-hour period.

Shrews usually do not live longer than 1 to 2 years, but they have 1 to 3 litters per year with 2 to 10 young per litter.

Specific demographic features vary with the species.

The gestation period is approximately 21 days. Shrews have an acute sense of touch, hearing, and smell, with vision playing a relatively minor role.

Some species of shrews use a series of high-pitched squeaks for echolocation, much as bats do.

(Adult Pygmy Shrew to the right)

However, shrews probably use echolocation more for investigating their habitat than for searching out food.

Glands located on the hindquarters of shrews have a pungent odor and probably function as sexual attractants.

Some shrews exhibit territorial behavior. Depending on the species and the habitat, shrews range in density from 2 to 70 individuals per acre (1 to 30/ hectare) in North America.


Short-tail shrews are found in a great variety of habitats but are especially abundant in moist environments with dense vegetation and thick layers of leaf litter.

In the winter, the short-tails dig shallow tunnels through the snow and also rely on the subnivian space for both shelter and for foraging.

Short-tails have a foraging range of 0.5 to 1.0 acres which can shift and fluctuate from season to season.

Shrews communicate primarily via scent markings and vocalizations.

Two prominent sets of scent glands located on their bellies and on their flanks produce an array of pungent secretions that are used to mark individuals, territories and cache locations.

Scent is also quite important for males to locate females during the breeding season which runs from March to September (but may begin even as early as January!).

It is believed that the musky opder may deter some predators, like fox and coyotees, but has no effect on others like snakes and birds of prey.

Shrews are fiercely territorial, driving off rivals, and only coming together to mate.

Of Interest

Certain test areas show a 6% survival rate from one year to the next (including natural death) and winter testing shows a death rate in certain areas of 90%.

Fortunantly, the reproduce at a fast rate.

The average litter size is almost seven pups and they can easily produce 3 litters a season and much more than that in the warmer South.

Females are ready to mate 6 weeks after birth, though typically closer to 60 days while it takes a male twice as long

Metaphorical usage:

In the English language

English language

English is a widely distributed language that originated in England but is now the primary language in numerous countries.... , the word shrew is also used to describe a woman with a violent, scolding, or nagging temperament, as in Shakespeare's play The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew is a Shakespearean comedy by William Shakespeare. It was one of his earlier plays, probably penned in 1594.... . The animals were believed historically to behave aggressively and with cruelty, and to have a poisonous bite; the term "shrew" was then applied to a person thought to have a similar disposition.

Shrew was one of the names originally proposed for the British Fighter Airplane which finally became known as the Spitfire

Supermarine Spitfire

The Supermarine Spitfire was a single-seat Fighter aircraft used by the Royal Air Force and many Allied countries in World War II.... and played a key role in the Second World War.

I'm sure that this is more then you wanted to know on shrews, however, they are an interesting creature and for me, a very welcome animal to my wildlife gardens and habitats.

Well, it's time to fly for now.

Before I go, here id this weeks poditive thought for the week.

A childlike man is not a man whose development has been arrested; on the contrary, he is a man who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most adults have muffled themselves in the cocoon of middle aged habit and convention.

-- Aldous Huxley

Many times I have been told to grow up and act my age and my answer to them is this.

"If I have to grow up or act my age then you can bury me now".

What fun is life if I have to act my age or older or be like everyone else.

I'm not everyone else.

I'm me.

A unique person with unique thoughts and abilities.

Why should I arrest thinking, and talents because others and society say so.

Why should you thwart your abilities for others?

Decide today that you are going to be you.

Even if our bodies remind us we are getting older, the mind can continue to stay young if you exercise your brain.

Your emotions and thoughts can stay young and that adds to a sharp mind and a sharp mind can do wondrous things.

When you decide to be you and not what society wants or says you should be, you can move mountains.

Think about it for a moment.

Edison and Einstein where told they were unteachable or dumb.

Yet, two of the greatest minds marched to the beat of their own drummer and history tells the rest.

That is what we were meant to do, not what others want you to do.

Trying to fit in or be like others isn't always a good thing.

Be yourself

Use your God given talents.

Even if you think you are to old to make a difference.

You are never to old to make a difference.

Even if it is telling your grand kids to follow their dream.

Colonel Sanders was way past retirement when he started up KFC.

Do you have a dream you still want to chase?

Then decide today to release your inner child once again and go for it.

Here is a sad researched fact.

By the time most children have reached 6th grade, most of their creative skills have been shut off or shut down

by schools and us parents.

Why, society wants certain things from us.

These creative talents never left you, so you can find them again.

When our man child and woman child are allowed to go and grow, we can do GREAT things.

Allow your inner self out today.

Enjoy life and make a difference.

Say, maybe your smiles will come out too.

Today, find that bounce in your step and wear your child like smile and take the world by the horns.

You can it.

If I can, you can.

wont you join me?

Until next time my friend.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers. Better yet, have them sign up so they can recieve their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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