Williamson's Weekly Nature Notes- November 26 2008

THE rarest mouse in Britain lives in my house. It's a very pretty little creature and a joy to watch in the wild. But not in the house. It chews the corks in the wine bottles, gets into the bread, carries the Christmas nuts under the floorboards and jumps in and out of the bath when that's empty.

It is as quick as lightning and just as dangerous. . . because one of its little games is to chew the plastic off the electric cables running under the bedroom floorboards.

So, much against my will, I have to trap the little crittur. My photo shows one on the bird table outside the kitchen window, enjoying a round or two of Hovis. If only they would stay out there.

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They also get into my cars out in the garage and store dozens of acorns and hazel nuts under the seats and make nests out of old parking labels and shopping lists.

Sometimes they have a go at the wiring too but, as the cars are old, I can fix that problem myself. So obviously yellow-necked field mice (Apodymus flavicollis) often go for rides across country, much to their horror.

When I stop they usually jump ship. On one occasion I made a non-stop journey to Peterborough. On arrival at the farmhouse, my host and family were amazed to see about eight yellow-necks running around inside the car.

But at night they all jumped out and scurried into the farmhouse. It took the farm cats a week to catch them, but not before the apple store had been raided and the mice had frightened the family by jumping over the attic floorboards making a sound like ghosts clumping about in boots.

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Then I inadvertently introduced the yellow-neck to Norfolk by car, causing much interest to local naturalists there who recorded the animal as a 'first'.

Yellow-necks are very similar to wood mice (Apodymus sylvaticus). You can only tell them apart by examining the fur under the throat.

Wood mice have only a stripe of yellow under the chin but yellow-necks have a continuous band which looks like a yellow scarf. They have very long tails, big black eyes and enormous ears and are even prettier than dormice.

Oh yes, dormice visit the bird table very occasionally too. They are protected and luckily have no bad habits at all. Pictured above is one on my bird table having a go at the Hovis as well.