Country diary: there’s no taming of the pygmy shrew

Country diary: there’s no taming of the pygmy shrew

Langstone, Hampshire: Two velvet-coated shrews tumbled down the slope, landing at our feet. The creatures were locked in battle

Walking along the hollow way – a sunken, tree-lined path that cuts through the coastal grazing – we were stopped in our tracks by a continuous high-pitched chittering. It was a curious sound, reminiscent of bat echolocation or cricket stridulation.

Our eyes roamed over the bank in search of the source of the increasingly strident vocalisations. Although numerous rodent burrows could be seen among the oak and field maple roots, there was no movement at any of the tunnel entrances. We heard a scuffle of paws in the leaf litter, but our vision was obscured by the lush overlying vegetation – brambles, holly, ivy, rosettes of dock, sticky skeins of cleavers, the arrow-shaped leaves of lords-and-ladies, and a froth of cow parsley.

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