Saturday, November 13, 2010

Flitton Moor

Here’s a more in-depth report of this morning’s excitement!

This photograph shows the River Flit close to the village of Flitton. It is under the bridge that you can just make out on the right that the Otter paw-prints and spraint were found a few weeks ago. The main expanse of Flitton Moor is located the far side of the copse on the right, and behind the camera. Between the copse and the path is a water-filled ditch, and it is here that I found one of the Harvest Mouse nests (See here).

Between Thursday and today, I’ve had 8 Longworth small mammal traps set along a 30m stretch of this ditch bank, beginning just after the end of the copse in an effort to find my first ever wild Harvest Mouse.

In that time, incorporating 5 box-checks, I have trapped 19 Bank Voles and 4 Common Shrews (some of the Bank Voles, particularly, were probably ‘trap-happy’ and entered the traps several times!). As I approached the last trap this morning, set in the midst of a bramble bush, I was beginning to think that Harvest Mouse was going to elude me this year. So I was delighted when I emptied it to find a surprised-looking Harvest Mouse exploring the depths of the plastic bag!

So, here she is again – at least, I’m calling her a ‘she’ though it could as easily be a male. It’s thought that our UK Harvest Mice are slowly declining – it’s certainly been harder to find them in Bedfordshire in recent years, though that is probably due at least in part to a lack of people searching for them – a 1972 nest survey here revealed them to be fairly widespread. They’re certainly tiny, weighing only 5-11 grams!

When I’ve had the opportunity during the day I’ve been transfixed as I’ve watched this winsome creature creeping through the grass, or else clambering among the hogweed stems, sometimes gripping them with her prehensile tail as she stretches out to sniff the Bertolli tub! I’ve watched her wash, lap water from a bottle top, nibble grains held between his paws, and spend quite some time simply staring back at me from the other side of the glass! The Bertolli margarine tub contains the Harvest Mouse nest that I found on Flitton Moor a few weeks ago (see above). I fashioned an entrance with my penknife and she’s readily taken to it, and is tucked away safely as I write – of course, it could even be the nest where she was raised!

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