Harvest Mouse Card
Size: 297mm x 210mm
Original Painting Medium: Pastel
Scientific Name: Micromys minutus
For my painting of a Harvest Mouse I collected a few stalks of wheat from a nearby field and using a variety of photographic reference material portrayed my Harvest Mouse in pastels. As yet I have not seen a Harvest Mouse in the field but was once lucky enough to find the remains of a nest. In by-gone years the Harvest Mouse may not have been a favourite with farmers - but to portray the features of this cute little chap was a great pleasure.
A harvest mouse fashions a round nest with a side entrance, off the ground and between stalks, in a reed bed or corn field. Breeding can start in May, with nests made in hedgerows, but the main production of offspring is in August and September when the grass and cereal fields are most productive.
A harvest mouse will first test the strength of the corn stalks, before building its nest between them. The breeding nest consists of a ball of cornleaves and grass woven aound the stems of the corn. They are used only for a short time. Sadly their traditional homes are often harvested and to survive, they have to move away from the cereal fields.
This tiny mouse is a good climber and its size and lightness allows it to clamber up a stalk maintaining its balance with its prehensile tail. Holding on with its hind feet and tail, it uses its delicate but manipulative front feet and incisor teeth to cut off the ripe ears of wheat. Sliding head-first down the stem with its tail acting as a brake, it carries the whole ear of corn to the ground where it picks out the seeds. During the summer, the diet of harvest mice includes grass shoots, fruits, vegetables and insects.
This species is one of the worlds smallest rodents and the smallest British rodent; half of its four and a half inches (11cm) is taken up by its tail. Normally described as diurnal, in warm weather it is probably active at various times during a twenty four hour period.
Hibernation does not occur but it is less active during the winter and will lay up stores in the ground, close to the winter nest, for when food is scarce. In winter they take to burrows just below the surface, though hay ricks may sometimes be utilised. Few get through the winter, but this is compensated for by prolific breeding the following year. Numbers are declining; in Scotland they are rare and in Wales they are absent.