Hunting For Harvest Mice

As a freelance ecologist, sometimes it can be quite hard to motivate yourself over winter when work is scarce and the weather is cold and wet, which was why I was really glad to get out last week to help a friend survey roadside verges for hedgerows for harvest mice. Especially when we came across some emerging spring plants – lords and ladies Arum maculatum.

Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum)

The teeny harvest mouse Micromys minutus is a small mammal that I know about but have never had the pleasure of meeting. I’ve certainly never been aware of any nests during the course of my work and volunteering, but then, after helping with the survey I realised how hard it can be to spot their nests.

Harvest mouse nests are balls of tightly woven grass, about the size of tennis balls, that are situated just off the ground so they don’t get damp. At this time of year there are often no visible entrances as the mice somehow manage to weave their way inside through the grass blades.

We met our friend in the morning and headed outside our village to the first section of road verge – as part of a volunteer survey group through the Kent Mammal Group, Kent Wildlife Trust, and The Wildwood, volunteers are trained up to carry out surveys and allocated sites to hopefully collect more records of this under-recorded and often overlooked species.

Although our first section of road verge yielded no results, towards the end of our second section we had success! My first ever harvest mouse nest! Our friend told us at this point that nests are usually about 10m apart depending on territories, and sure enough about 10m later we found a second nest. Further down the road we came across another two, bringing our total number of nests to four.

For each nest we measured the diameter as well as the height off the ground, and also took GPS co-ordinates. Although no little mice decided to poke their noses through to say hello, I was more than happy to have finally been part of surveying for this species.

 

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