In autumn 2016 Devon Mammal Group began a pilot project looking for harvest mice in Devon. It came to our attention that this charismatic species is under recorded in our county. With just a handful of records we wanted to change this.

It all kicked off with a wonderful training day from The Mammal Society’s Derek Crawley. He opened our eyes as to where to look for harvest mice. In just a couple of hours at Stover Park, we found 20 nests! As well as learning so much more about one of our smallest mammals. We then went on, with the help of some of our members, to collate a whole new set of records.

This autumn the Harvest Mouse Project is back, bigger and better. This year we have a dedicated Project Officer, Pete. Pete will be coordinating the training and surveys that we will carry out over the next few months.

Harvest Mice © Derek Crawley 2016
Harvest Mice © Derek Crawley 2016

Why winter?

Surveying a small mammal over the coldest months of the year may seem a little unusual. We are not looking for the mice themselves (although we will be doing some trapping too). Most of our surveys are going to be nest searches. Harvest mice build beautiful spherical nests during the summer month to live in. These are set above the ground and made from grass, stripped and entwined around itself. During the summer these nests are almost impossible to find. But when the vegetation starts to die back, and the grass dries they become easier to spot. It’s still tricky, though, but training helps.

So what is the aim of the Project?

We would like to survey as many tetrads (10 x 10 km grid squares) as possible in Devon. Devon is a large county, and with over 90 tetrads this is no small challenge. However, we will be training up anyone who wants to learn, in the hope that the new found knowledge will be put to use and more records will come flooding in! We will be running a number of dedicated training days, as well as smaller training sessions across the county over the next few months. There will be one in your area, so keep an eye on the website to find out when there is one near you!

 

If you would like to be emailed about surveys this winter please let us know. Use our “Contact” page and let us know you’re interested in the Harvest Mouse Project. We’re looking forward to hearing from you and seeing you out on a survey soon.