Friday, 31 October 2014

Harvesting mice in Guildford!

The Harvest mouse "Team"
My alarm went off this morning at 5am – but I didn't mind being woken up this early as I was off to visit a fascinating little project.

A couple of weeks ago I met a chap called Jim Jones who works for the Surrey Wildlife Trust and after a while we started chatting about Harvest mice – as you do! He told me about a live trapping project that the Trust was involved in, attempting to find out the best way to trap these fantastic little mammals, as in the past researchers have found them difficult to catch. Jim then very kindly invited me along to one of the study sites near Guildford to help check out the over-night catch.

We were due to meet at 6.30 am and I had to find my way through Guildford housing estates and industrial parks until I eventually got to the location – a reed, sedge and grass rich area alongside the river Wey. The A3 roared past on one side, huge pylons strode straight through site and as I have already said, all sorts of industry was just a stones throw away. Was I in the correct place? Well yes it appeared so! 
I was warmly welcomed by the project leader, Dave Williams who immediately took me under his wing to make sure that I did not miss anything and quietly chatted away about the various small mammals that we found in the traps – wonderfully absorbing information that you don’t get from a book – but from years of field work!

Well, to cut a longish story short, what a morning it turned out to be! We eventually found out that the catch comprised of 23 mammals including an amazing 9 Harvest Mice!! The other species were Wood Mouse, Yellow-necked Mouse, Bank Vole, Common Shrew and Pigmy Shrew.

I have been working on plans to hopefully carry out some work within Hampshire on this stunning little mammal the Harvest mouse, concentrating on how they are faring on farmland, so to tap into the wealth of knowledge these folk have begun to build up was very exciting for me.

To spend a couple of hours or so with such a thoroughly pleasant group of dedicated wildlife experts and incredibly importantly, also the volunteers who help out and put in lots of unpaid time, made for an unforgettable morning!! So a big thank you to the Surrey Wildlife Trust.

If you would like to find out a little more about Harvest mice - I wrote them up as one of my species of the month - so go to the link on the top right hand side of this page - and then go to August 2010.
Here are a few pictures of the morning’s work!   

A beautiful little Harvest mouse

A close up !
The wonderfully rich brown coat of a Bank Vole
What do harvest mice do when trapped? Well some spend the time shredding the straw to make a nest!
The habitat - which obviously holds an excellent population of all sorts of small mammals

A live catch  Longworth trap placed off of the ground  - just one of many combinations being tried out
Jim on the left and Dave on the right - could not have been more welcoming.
One last look at these delightful creatures - a bright eyed Harvest mouse! 

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