I’m always looking for something to watch on these quiet winter nights – particularly now that I’ve read all the books I was given for Christmas. For me, BBC 1’s ‘Hidden Kingdoms’ is a current highlight. The first episode of three, delved into the lives of two small creatures – The Elephant Shrew (or Sengi) and the Grasshopper Mouse.
Viewers were told, upfront, that storyboards and blue screens had been used during filming. The production team were looking to provide a film experience. But the actions of these extraordinary creatures were undoubtedly real. Take the twitch of the Sengi’s nose – an endearing, quirky feature that intrigued me before I knew anything about her unique survival skills, including her extraordinary pace.
What adds to my fascination, is the fact that Hubs and I have entertained a few shrews over the years, (or rather, they’ve entertained us)! They are so tiny, there’s no way of keeping them out of our old cottage and they are often too light to trigger a mouse trap (the live capture type, of course). Their long noses are striking and they are incredibly brave, considering their size. They think nothing of tippy-toeing it out into the open and have even been known to go into a trap, eat the bait and come straight back out again!
To return to the Sengi, the programme uncovered the secrets of her daily life, revealing her lack of burrow and her reliance on trails, meticulously built throughout the Savannah grasslands. The Sengi was shown maintaining these trails, in order to keep them free of obstacles. She faced several challenges, including: elephant dung, dung beetles, a herd of wilderbeast and a bushfire. Throughout all these setbacks, she twisted, turned and barely lost any of her astonishing speed.
Meanwhile, the grasshopper mouse turned out to be a real character. The story focused on a young male, in search of adventure in the Sonoran Desert. He bravely scurried under the noses of reptiles and Harris Hawks while his siblings slept. Our hero even ended up grappling with a scorpion and winning – apparently this type of mouse is immune to the poison. Afterwards he threw back his little head and howled at the moon! And if that has you intrigued, the series concludes this Thursday, 8pm on BBC1.
On a sidenote, my writing isn’t suffering as a consequence of all this TV time. I recently completed a key chapter in my novel, plus I’m working on a poetry submission. It takes a lot to separate me and my notepad!
Image sourced at http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/25729116