November 2012 - The Wood Mouse
It is autumn and mammals that have been living happily in the fields during the summer are now moving into residential areas to over-winter in outbuildings, sheds, wood stores and, if you are very unlucky, in houses and lofts. So far we have seen two hedgehogs making for our lean-to wood store. One was incredibly small but very lively. The other looked like a veteran. To my horror one of our dogs found the small hedgehog out foraging one night. I heard the excited yapping, grabbed a torch, and sped outside to see what she had found, expecting the worst, but the hedgehog had just rolled into a ball and was safe and sound. Bonnie was beside herself with joy as she had found a ball to play with.
Then the mouse droppings started appearing in the shed. A mouse had chewed its way into the plastic bin holding peanuts. What a beautiful creature with its large eyes, big sensitive ears and glossy brown fur. I let it go in the wood store, but it was back the next day.
Wood mice (a.k.a field mouse or long tailed field mouse) are possibly the most abundant and widespread of British mammals. They have a lifespan of about 18 months during which time they are hunted by domestic cats, owls, foxes, weasels and stoats. Females have one or two litters a year, giving birth to 4 to 7 pups. They nest below ground, occasionally in trees, and the nest is made of leaves, moss and grass. Burrows may be used for several generations and can be quite extensive and often over a metre deep in the ground. The entrance to the burrow is often found in open grass land (or lawn as in our case). During the winter they often share nests with other wood mice, although during the breeding season (March to October) females become territorial. They are nocturnal creatures, having excellent night vision, and feed on seeds, buds, fruit, insects, worms, fungi (and peanuts!).
Dominic, Brenda Bell's son, who has contributed so much to the photo gallery, has reported that there are a lot of different birds arriving at Bawburgh Lakes at this time. The first week in October he was lucky enough to see 3 peregrine falcons. In September he managed to catch a wheatear on camera (see photo gallery) at the UEA - a very exciting occurrence.
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