Mouse

Vole

Every so often when I'm out on my mountain bike in the woods, I see a mouse. Usually it is something like once every couple of months. Most often it catches my eye by running across the path in front of me, but sometimes, if I'm going slowly up a hill or something, a rustling movement in the undergrowth draws my attention. But this year it is different. For the past few months, since the spring in fact, every time I've been out, without fail, I've seen at least one mouse, and often more. I write 'mouse', but actually I don't know, they might be a shrew or a vole or something. The photo above is a bank vole (Myodes glareolus), taken in a woodland just over the border in the Eifel a few years ago. Obviously that was no snapshot with a phone camera, and to be sure that it was a bank vole I remember you needed a good view of its toes (though the small ears tell you already that it isn't a mouse). So when something small and dark scuttles across the path at high speed, I really could not say if it is a wood mouse or something else. Entertaining as that is for the mountain biker enjoying the nature, the biologist in me wants to know why there are so many all of a sudden. I'm seeing plenty of buzzards this year as well, so it is not that there is nothing to eat them.  And anyway, according to the textbooks the food determines the prey population, not the other way around).  Maybe it is something to do with the large amounts of acorns and beechmast that we have had for the past couple of years. Whatever the reason, they are always a delight to see.