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Scottish mice plague?

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 chris_s 10 May 2011
Anyone else noticed unusually large mouse populations in the Scottish Highlands this year? I was camped south of Ben Vorlich a few weeks ago and there were thousands of mouse runs in the grass. Almost every step a mouse was darting out the way. I've never seen this many mice before over the past 20 years of camping in Scotland around Easter.

Friends report similar in Knoydart and other areas of the Loch Lomond NP. Anyone else noticed this? Any ideas why?
Jimmybarr 10 May 2011
In reply to chris_s:

Noticed it up Glencoe last week, the wee buggers were everywhere
 Mike-W-99 10 May 2011
In reply to chris_s:

Yes,we've noticed this as well I think they are field voles. Googling suggests the population is on a four year cycle.
pooh 10 May 2011
In reply to chris_s: A couple of years back, accidentally let some chocolate in my tent, when i good back the little devils had done quiet some damage. That was in the Nevis range about Easter time
 chris_s 10 May 2011
In reply to Mike_Watson_99:

Interesting, have you got a link for that?
 wee jamie 10 May 2011
In reply to chris_s: Oh right, I thought it was the area I was in a few weeks back - Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan area - all the hill sides were covered in runnels where they have been living under the snow, and there were mice everywhere. While I was packing my tent away, they were running underneath the groundsheet and hiding. I even took a video, they were quite tame.

I have no idea why they would be so prevalent. Let's hope they eat all the ticks!
 lowersharpnose 10 May 2011
In reply to chris_s:


Looks to be three year in Kielder forest...

www.ma.hw.ac.uk/~jas/talks/maryland_oct08_biology.pdf
 Mike-W-99 10 May 2011
In reply to chris_s:

Referenced in passing here -
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2980900/

(Some good bedtime reading)
pooh 10 May 2011
In reply to Mike_Watson_99: That time might of been 4 years back actually.

and wee jamie, yeah some of the cheeky little bu**ers were still there when I got back and didn't seem too put out by me turning up!!
 chris_s 10 May 2011
In reply to Mike_Watson_99:

Some light reading. Thanks
 chris_s 10 May 2011
In reply to wee jamie:

Exactly what I saw - appears to be a Scotland-wide phenomenon then. I can see how populations can peak every few years, but this seems to be beyond that.
 Lucy Wallace 10 May 2011
In reply to chris_s:

Definitely field voles. Populations of field voles tend to boom and bust. Usually a 4 year cycle for discrete (local) populations. Unusual to see nationwide boom years but the field voles do well when there has been a lot of lying snow in the winter as it protects their runs from prying avian predators, so they have probably had a really good couple of winters in the highlands- hence the large numbers seen?
 chris_s 10 May 2011
In reply to Snoweider:

Ah, now that makes sense. Incidentally, I spotted a short-eared owl on the south side of Ben Vorlich, hunting the runs during the day. It looked fat ;)
 deanstonmassif 10 May 2011
In reply to chris_s:

Actually it probably wasn't fat; just an optical illusion on account of it having such small ears.

In the same way, Long-eared bats always appear so very slim.
 chris_s 10 May 2011
In reply to deanstonmassif:

No seriously, it had love handles and everything
cling2 10 May 2011
In reply to chris_s:

I noticed many runs in snow flattened dry grass on the northern slopes of Glen Shiel, Gulvain's western side, many places in the hills north of Achnashellac and throughout the Fannichs a week before Easter. From the brief glimpses I saw I was guessing they were voles, fast moving bulrush heads with tails. Many more in evidence than seen in previous years. That said there were many more lizards knocking about too. Interesting to hear about the four year cycle, a good year to be a bird of prey perhaps.
 petestack 10 May 2011
In reply to Snoweider:
> Definitely field voles. Populations of field voles tend to boom and bust. Usually a 4 year cycle for discrete (local) populations. Unusual to see nationwide boom years but the field voles do well when there has been a lot of lying snow in the winter as it protects their runs from prying avian predators, so they have probably had a really good couple of winters in the highlands- hence the large numbers seen?

Saw a wee vole-type thing (probably one of these) while running one of my regular trails on Saturday when/where I've never seen any before. So guessing there must be something in that!
 chris_s 10 May 2011
In reply to cling2:

Yep, I also saw loads of lizards around Ben Vorlich at the same time, and I don't recall ever seeing them there before at Easter.
 Lucy Wallace 10 May 2011
In reply to chris_s:
a ha, def NOT and expert on lizards, - but we have had quite an early/sunny spring and late Easter. Common lizards come out of hibernation in April and are very busy with breeding for the first couple of weeks so quite active.

Field voles are by far the most common and abundant rodent in the Scottish hills, they eat the roots and shoots of grasses and like long/scrubby vegetation to hide in so its great habitat for them.
 Mike-W-99 13 May 2011
In reply to Mike_Watson_99:

On a similar note there was a "plague" of caterpillars in the Lakes around 5 or 6 years ago which apparently also appear in cycles. Not sure what the adult creature was. I'm fairly sure it was commented on on the BBC site.

Quite a few animals, especially insects, go through these cycles - Cicadas are perhaps the best known: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4046557.stm. Often the cycle tends to be an odd number of years for anti-predation reasons.

ALC
In reply to a lakeland climber:

Found the Lakes link - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cumbria/6744921.stm Antler Moths apparently and an 8 -10 year cycle.

ALC
 Al Evans 13 May 2011
In reply to a lakeland climber: In 1976 there was a plague of ladybirds in the Peak. On Chee Tor the whole underside of the lower overhangs was covered in them.
 Mr Powly 13 May 2011
In reply to a lakeland climber:

The cicada one is a different thing, but yeah you're right in general
 chris_s 13 May 2011
In reply to Mike_Watson_99:

I know, that's me
 Lucy Wallace 13 May 2011
In reply to chris_s:

Nice article!
 Roberttaylor 13 May 2011
In reply to chris_s: Saves me carrying food to bothies.
Mark Souter 15 May 2011
In reply to chris_s:
> (In reply to deanstonmassif)
> No seriously, it had love handles and everything

LOL
 Toby S 15 May 2011
In reply to deanstonmassif:
> (In reply to chris_s)
>
> Actually it probably wasn't fat; just an optical illusion on account of it having such small ears.
>
I'll need to remember that one, 'I aint fat, it's an optical illusion on account of my small ears'.

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