by Steve Westerman

Wharfedale Naturalists Society

THE social isolation measures that are in place to combat COVID-19 have necessitated a rethink for my wildlife photography. I would usually spend many days on the moor or by the river, watching wildlife and trying to make some photographs. Now photography is restricted to my garden. So, I have set up a small hide and put out a little seed. From time to time, I’ve also deployed a ‘trail camera’ – that uses a movement sensor and infrared – so that I can see what has been around at night.

Daytime visitors have been mostly familiar species. Depending on how long the ‘lockdown’ continues, there will probably more on these on other occasions! However, I was excited to see night-time trail camera recordings of a Hedgehog and some Wood Mice. Both are mainly nocturnal in their activities, so I’ve been doing occasional late evening vigils, with some success. However, there has also been one daytime session when a mouse appeared for a little while.

As you can hopefully see from the photograph, this mouse is larger and with more prominent ears than a Harvest Mouse. The brown-white colouring distinguishes it from a House Mouse that would be greyer and more uniform in colour (although juvenile Wood Mice are trickier to differentiate). Its location (Yorkshire) makes it unlikely to be a Yellow-Necked Mouse. These are much less common and not thought to be found this far north. However, Yellow-Necked Mice are quite similar in appearance and this one could be on its holidays (no ‘lockdown’ for mice)! According to the Mammal Society, the only certain way to differentiate the species is a yellow collar that extends the full width of the neck of the mysteriously named Yellow-Necked Mouse. Wood mice sometimes have a yellow mark on their neck – but it does not extend side-to-side. The angle of the photograph is fortunate in that you can see this. So, based on where the photograph was taken and the markings, this is definitely a Wood Mouse.

As their name suggests, woodland is a preferred habitat. However, a fairly eclectic diet (including nuts, seeds, berries, and invertebrates) and somewhat adaptable nesting and feeding behaviours enable them to thrive in various environments. So, Wood Mice are widespread and numerous. Nevertheless, with their typical nocturnal activity pattern and cautious nature, it’s not often that we get the chance to see them. So, getting some photographs was an encouraging start for my new and (until circumstances change) only wildlife photography location!