Seven essential wildlife events to enjoy this month, compiled by Ben Hoare.
1 | HARVEST MOUSE Small but mighty
“A prehensile tail acts like a fifth limb… she’s as agile as a monkey clambering around a tree.” David Attenborough was not describing an exotic species from faraway lands, but one of the British stars of Planet Earth II: a female harvest mouse moving nimbly, like a miniature tightrope-walker, through a forest of grasses, hogweed and thistles a metre or so above the ground.
From Planet Earth II in 2016 to Autumnwatch in 2017 and Hugh’s Wild West earlier this year, the BBC’s wildlife film-makers love featuring harvest mice for their extraordinary agility, tiny size and – let’s face it – cuteness. Weighing slightly less than a 10p piece, they are Europe’s smallest rodents. But their name is a misnomer nowadays. It arose because farmhands would come across the mice and their ball-shaped nests when scything and stacking corn and barley, yet the acrobatic animals thrive in many habitats with thickets of dense stems.
As our photograph shows, closely packed Phragmites reeds are perfect for harvest mice. At the end of summer their populations on some reedbed reserves probably number in the hundreds. In fact, reedbeds and lush, marshy floodplains could be the original habitats of harvest mice in Britain, long before the first wheat fields were planted.