WILD MONTH

Seven es­sen­tial wildlife events to en­joy this month, com­piled by Ben Hoare.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - WILD MONTH -

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.

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