Nature Notes: Bright Eyes

The woodmouse

The woodmouse

First published in Nature Notes Wimbledon Guardian: Photograph of the Author by

House mice and especially rats are everyone's nightmare and we shudder with revulsion if we see either species in or anywhere near our establishments.

When working in a city office some years ago I recall one morning a staff member opened her desk drawer and put her hand on what she thought was her towel but it was a rat that had spent the night eating her soap! Imagine her reaction!

However, there is one delightful, handsome rodent to be found in the countryside and our gardens and that is the woodmouse (pictured) also known as the long-tailed fieldmouse.

Thought to be the most abundant and widespread British mammal, the woodmouse is larger than the housemouse with prominent eyes, large ears and a glossy brownish-grey fur. It feeds on seeds, berries, nuts, snails and insects as I found to my cost last spring when the finger-sized larvae of stag beetles I was rearing were gobbled up when the mice broke into their box in the shed.

Woodmice are very active, mainly at night, but they can often be seen in daytime. Agile climbers, they think nothing of clambering up the poles of my bird feeders to reach the contents, especially in winter when natural foods are scarce.

One morning last winter I came down at first light and glancing out into the garden, saw a sparrowhawk tucking into a woodmouse. The bird had clearly been sitting on the fence near a bird feeder awaiting the arrival of early morning finches and tits but instead, spotted a woodmouse below and pounced on the hapless creature.

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