SPOT THE SPECIES
In this section we hope to provide a series of seasonal articles showing what to look out for at different times of the year. All of these articles have appeared in print in the excellent Spot The Species page which Orkney Field Club provides to Living Orkney magazine each month. If you spot any of these species, please submit records to the contact given in the article, whilst details of all our County Recorders are given on our websites 'Records' page.
The following is an article written by Orkney’s mammal recorder, Brian Ribbands
WHAT THE CAT BRINGS IN - MICE, SHREWS AND VOLES
As Orkney’s Mammal Recorder I am supporting the Mammal Society’s work in preparing an atlas of British mammals. The local distribution of species such as rabbits, hares, hedgehogs and rates is reasonably well known, but unfortunately very few people record small mammals in Orkney. Pet owners can make a very valuable contribution by reporting what their cat brings in! Please send any mammal records to me – Brian Ribbands, Queenamidda, Rendall, KW17 2PA or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Records of what your cat brings in, or of anything caught in a mousetrap, will be particularly valuable, but I am always interested in reports of any species, large or small, from anywhere in Orkney.
There seem to be changes going on, such as recent reports of wood mice on Westray and perhaps Rousay for the first time. Orkney voles have recently become established on Eday – have they spread over the whole island now? We need as many records as possible from any part of Mainland and the Isles, with Mainland records providing valuable baseline data to show any impact of stoats if they become permanently established.
Most folk will know how to tell the difference between a vole, a mouse and a shrew.
We have our unique Orkney vole, with different races on some islands. It is bigger than a mouse with a rounded head and a short tail. Their network of runs are very conspicuous when snow melts after having lain for a few days.
There is probably only one shrew in Orkney, the diminutive pygmy shrew, easily recognised by its small size and long snout. Old reports of water shrews on Hoy have never been confirmed.
Two species of mouse occur in Orkney: wood mouse (however its old name of field mouse is much more appropriate here) and house mouse. Wood mice are brown with a white underside. House mice are grey, but young wood mice in autumn are greyer than adults so can be confusing. Most house mice will be in or around buildings but wood mice will come into buildings in winter (I get them in my house every year).
Wood mice tend to be widespread across those islands that have them, but house mice are found on more of Orkney’s islands. However, on an island which has both species, if the human inhabitants leave then the house mice seem to die out, but house mice can survive on uninhabited islands with no wood mice.