Five small creatures to keep an eye out for

Five small creatures to keep an eye out for


Posted 19th Jan 2017


Last year's State of Nature Report showed that the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, meaning it is surely time to focus on some of the fascinating wildlife on our doorstep

TV programmes such as Planet Earth II demonstrate the small mammals in Britain can be just as enigmatic, with a number of intriguing and unique habitats and qualities.

Founder of Wild Days conservation holidays Andy Jeffries discusses five of the top small mammals to keep an eye out for in Britain.

The harvest mouse

The harvest mouse is a brave little creature with soft, thick brown fur and a body ranging from 55-75mm long.

Its skills includes:

- Weighing less than a two pence piece, it is the lightest rodent in Europe. This means it can live almost entirely amongst a grass canopy, meaning it will rarely come to ground.

- It has specially adapted feet to make climbing easier, with the outer five toes on each foot large and opposable. It can grip a grass step with each hindfoot and its tail, resulting in free forepaws to collect food with.

- With large eyes and ears, it can see the slightest motions, enabling it to hear the faintest sounds in the darkness.


The wood mouse

The most common native rodent in Britain, the wood mouse has an average life expectancy of 12 months due to its many predators.

Its skills includes:

- An agile climber, it's capable of making spectacular leaps.

- Objects such as leaves or twigs are placed as navigation aids to mark its territory, a trait which no other animal is known to do.

- As a last-ditch escape method the wood mouse can shed the skin of its tail.

The bank vole

The smallest of the vole species, the bank vole has a chunky red-brown body and a blunt rounded muzzle. You may be able to spot them in your garden in Autumn.

Its skills include:

- An excellent swimmer, the bank vole is often able to cross wide stretches of water.

- During the Autumn months it will harvest berries, seeds and nuts in preparation for winter. These are stored by digging isolated holes, where they are deposited.

- Active day and night, the bank vole is a very gregarious creature which gather in large populations in relatively small areas.

The pygmy shrew

Tiny and with a pointed snout, the pygmy shrew has greyish-brown fur and red-tipped teeth which are formed by the deposition of iron. Generally a solitary creature, it will defend its range against other shrews.

Its skills include:

- Its extremely small size means it has a very high metabolic rate. This means it has to consume 1.25 times its body weight each day in order to survive. Its diet will include beetles, spiders and woodlice.

- Pygmy shrews don't burrow themselves, instead utilising the burrows of other animals.

- Unlike other shrews, they do not emit audible twitters, instead producing an audible 'chit' when coming across another individual.

The field vole

Grey-brown with a short tail, the field vole has longer and shaggier hair, with more densely haired ears than other vole species.

Its skills include:

- Very active by day, thy can excavate shallow burrows close to the surface of the ground, under leaf litter or snow.

- The filed vole is a crucial part of the diet of a number of predators, including kestrels, weasels and barn owls.

All five of these tiny creatures are so small that they are susceptible to environmental unpredictability, including the loss of habitat and the use of pesticides, making it more of a reason to preserve the British countryside and to keep them safe.





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