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Monday, May 28, 2012

You'll be blown away: Amazing photos of harvest mouse who climbed up a dandelion in the breeze

By Nick Enoch

The harvest mouse - one of Britain's most elusive rodents - was snapped at the British Wildlife Centre in Lingfield, Surrey, by head keeper Matt Binstead. It uses its prehensile tail as an anchor

As this tiny harvest mouse seemed to blow away a dandelion, who knows what it was wishing for.

These heartwarming pictures of one of Britain’s most elusive rodents were taken by amateur photographer Matt Binstead last weekend.

He said: 'It was lovely to get these shots of the mouse in its element. I saw it on the stem and just waited for it to climb all the way to the top.

'I can't remember whether it was the breeze or the mouse blowing the dandelion,' said Mr Binstead

'I can’t remember whether it was the breeze or the mouse blowing the dandelion.

'It is the only British animal with what is known as a prehensile tail that can be used as a fifth limb.

'When wrapped around a stem, it can act as a brake or anchor.

'This makes it very nimble, travelling and feeding in stems of cereals and grasses.'

Conservation measures have been in place for the species since 2001 when it was given near-threatened status.

It is Europe’s smallest rodent, at about 6cm long, and weighs less than a 2p coin.

They have many natural predators and are a snack for foxes, weasels, stoats, cats, owls, crows, kestrels and even toads.

The mouse is Europe's smallest rodent, at about 6cm long, and weighs less than a 2p coin

And many of them freeze to death in the winter where they live in grass nests in hedgerows near the ground.

The species don’t hibernate but do sleep for long periods in the winter, waking up during milder spells to eat a little stored food or venture out on a foraging trip.

Tennis balls used in play at Wimbledon have been recycled to create artificial nests for harvest mice in an attempt to help the species avoid predation at this time.

They eat mainly seeds and insects but also nectar and fruit and are found in areas of tall grasses such as cereal crops, and in roadside verges, hedgerows, reedbeds, dykes and salt-marshes.

Mr Binstead, 30, is head keeper at the British Wildlife Centre in Lingfield, Surrey, where the pictures were taken.

He added: 'They have a remarkable ability to sense vibrations through the soles of their feet.

'Larger animals in the vicinity can be sensed by vibrations passing through the ground and up the plant on which the mouse is feeding.'

Harvest mice breed from May to October, often producing three litters a year after a two-and-a-half-week gestation period.

The young are completely independent and are abandoned by their mother after 16 days.

The centre has been open to the public since 2000 and houses about 40 native species.

Maybe this little one was just wishing the lovely weather will continue.



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