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T H E H A R V E S T M O U S E IN S U F F O L K IN 1978 C . R . NAUNTON

Early in 1978 the late Lord Cranbrook asked me to undertake a m a m m a l survey, which I agreed to do. It was primarily on the harvest mouse, Micromys minutus (Pallas), and the recording was based on the 10 km. squares of the Ordnance Survey National Grid. At the end of 1978 the results of the survey were sent to the Biological Records Centre at Monks W o o d Experimental Station for the Mammal Society's scheme on the distribution of mammals in the British Isles. T h e harvest mouse has always been one of the most interesting mammals, and I have spent many hours observing these delightful little creatures. Recently they have become scarce, and this could be due to modern farming methods, such as the use of sprays and combine harvesters etc., and the loss of their habitat. Few are recorded in Suffolk, suggesting that they are scarce, but probably they have been overlooked. Harvest mice nests were found in all the 10 km. squares I searched, and a p p e a r e d to be quite common in three squares. Therefore they a p p e a r to be uncommon and not rare. They seem to be widely scattered in some areas where the habitat is suitable, and although sometimes no nests were found where the habitat seemed ideal, they might have been found after further searching. Fortunately harvest mouse nests are easy to find. They are best looked for in winter when the herbage had died back, although in some districts this is difficult due to the hedges and verges being cut. Overgrown verges of fieldsandroads, hedges and marshes are the usual places to find nests, and harvest mice have a strong preference for those with ditches; areas with trees in the hedges directly above the herbage appear generally to be avoided. The nest is well known because of its beautiful construction. It is about 70 mm in diameter, and is a neat spherical ball of closely-woven grass blades attached to grass stems a n d , on average, between 20-35 cm. from ground level. The edge of a bramble patch, where long grass grows, a p p e a r s to be the most favoured nest site, but a few were f o u n d where long grass passed through shoots of elm or blackt h o r n , or wire fences and, on one occasion, thistles. U n f o r t u n a t e l y I was unable to visit parts of south or west Suffolk, but I think that harvest mice are probably present in these areas. Harvest mice nests were found in the following Trans. S u f f . Nat. Vol. 18 pari 1.



parishes: Alpheton, Bawdsey, Bucklesham, Carlton Colville, Chattisham, Covehithe, Cretingham, Crowfield, Edwardstone, Elmswell, Eye, Flixton, Frostenden, Gedgrave, Gisleham, Gislingham, Hadleigh, Henstead, Hinton, Kessingland, Kirton, Lackford, Lakenheath, Lawshall, Linstead Magna, Metfield, Mettingham, North Cove, Oulton Broad, Reydon, St. Cross South Elmham, Shelland, Shottisham, Snape, Southwold, Stanton, Sternfield, Stonham Parva, Stowmarket, Stowupland, Sudbourne, Wangford, Westleton, West Stow.

C. R. Naunton, 36 Pinewood Avenue, Oulton Broad, Lowestoft.

Trans. Suff. Nat. Vol. 18 part I.

The harvest mouse in Suffolk in 1978  
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