Harvest mice

Nest hunting at Bedgebury group SQUAREAt the start of 2018, a group of specialist volunteers from organisations such as the Kent Mammal Group, Wildwood Trust and Kent High Weald Partnership carried out a harvest mouse survey in the Pinetum. These are the smallest and the UK's most elusive British rodent, earmarked as a Species of Principal Importance. They love habitats of long grass and tall vegetation. In fact, harvest mice are so light that, with their long prehensile tail, they can cling onto a stem without it bending over. 

And so we share some great news! The team found two ground-level harvest mouse nests in an area of long grass. These would be used by the mice (typically during winter and early spring) for sleeping in and storing food. During the peak breeding season (September), harvest mice make a special one-off cricket ball-sized woven nest of grass leaves about a metre off the ground, where there is less chance of predation. For a harvest mouse to build a nest a number of requirements have to be met in the habitat. However, the primary condition is that there has to be a lot of dense, tall grass surrounded by other vegetation such as bramble.

Measuring the found nest at Bedgebury Close up of nest at Bedgebury SQUAREAlthough harvest mouse nests are very distinctive, because they are woven from grass leaves, unless you know what you are looking for, they can be rather tricky to spot! If there is an obvious hole or holes on the outside of a nest, then the nest is finished with and the young have left home. If not, then it's possible that the nest is still occupied and should not be disturbed. As you can see by the photographs here, once the nests were found the volunteers took measurements (of height from the ground and width), photographs and GPS co-ordinates to make an official biological record.