more-icon Back to Species Spied...

Species Spied: Little Mammal Lens

Overview

Small mammals

Bank vole close up camera trap

There are about twenty species of small mammal in the UK and they are vital to our ecosystems and as prey for carnivorous mammals and birds of prey.

You can capture these little critters using a close-focus lens attachment (some Bushnell cameras come with interchangeable lense but most need an adaptation). We have set up a special camera trap, the Little Mammal Lens, to get close-ups of visitors to our feeding station.

Often these animals are briefly glimpsed dashing around, or instead caught and handled in small mammal traps. Camera traps allow us to watch their natural behaviours - and they even get a free meal!

The lens has been a great success and we have captured a number of small mammal species including the common shrew, bank vole and wood mouse. Click on the tabs above to find out more and see pictures and videos of these species.

Common Shrew

Shrew close up camera trapSpecies: Common Shrew

Scientific name: Sorex araneus

Family: Soricidae (shrews)

Identification

Their long pointed nose is usually their most identifiable characteristic. They are dark brown with pale brown sides and a white underneath, and have velvety fur and small eyes and ears. Shrew's teeth are red due to iron deposits which make them particularly strong.

Behaviours you may see

Shrews are known for their almost continuous eating habits; they must eat every 2-3 hours! You may see them foraging for insects or perhaps earthworms and slugs. We had one which seemed tempted by our selection of treats but then just went a bit nuts! Watch it here.

Wood mouse

Wood mouse camera trapSpecies: Wood mouse

Scientific name:: Apodemus sylvaticus

Family:: Muridae (old world mice and rats)

Identification

Wood mice are a sandy brown colour with a lighter underside. They have large ears and eyes and a long tail.

Behaviours you may see

Wood mice have lots of predators so have adapted to jump, quite impressively, away from danger. They may shed their tails if caught so don't worry if you see one with a bit of a stumpy tail.  They can also swim and climb well; watch one play balance beam here. They feed on seeds, green plants, caterpillars, worms and even fungi depending on the season. They also eat fruit but will often be picky and only eat the pips.

Bank vole

Bank vole close up camera trap

A quick nibble

Species:: Bank vole

Scientific name:: Myodes glareolus

Family:: Muridae (old world mice and rats)

Identification

Bank voles have reddish brown fur and a lighter underneath. They have a rounded snout, tiny eyes and small ears that are barely visible beneath their fur. Their tail is quite short.

Behaviours you may see

Bank voles feed on a variety of seeds, berries and leaves. We captured one bank vole who seemed to love peanuts, deciding to take most of them off to a cache somewhere close by but eating one or two along the way; watch it here.

Camera trapping tips

Camera trapping tips

Bank voles are found throughout the UK, may be seen throughout the year and are active during both night and day - so make sure your camera traps are on at all times if you are trying to capture them. They favour covered areas particularly in broadleaf woodland, scrubland and parks. As their name suggests they can often be found on banks but also in hedgerows. Their numbers are greatest in summer and then decline during winter.

You may capture glimpses of small mammals on standard camera traps; usually they are too far away to identify, and the only obvious sign is the bright IR light reflecting from their large eyes. Generally, you will need to adapt a camera trap to get close up footage or pictures, as most camera traps will not focus closer than 1 metre.

You can do this by purchasing a camera that comes with close-focus lenses (currently on Bushnell NatureView HD Max models do), or making your own close-focus lenses. The easiest way to do this is buy a cheap pair of reading glasses with a strength of about +1.5. Pop the lenses out, and stick them in front of your camera lens using something like BlueTac - this ensures you can get the lens off easily later. You can stick just one lens on at a time, or using both lenses stuck together to get even closer.

Bear in mind that usually the IR flash will be too bright when animals are this close, and you will need to use something to mask it slightly, or turn the IR LEDs down in the menu settings.

It can be a case of trial and error - but if you but some crushed peanuts or seeds down in one spot, chances are your local small mammals will keep returning each night, meaning you can get plenty of practice in!

Photos

Small mammal camera trap photos

Videos

Small mammal camera trap videos