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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Bird Cherry (Prunus padus) Food for a Wood Mouse ?

Every spring I give the van a once over and fix any problems ready for the annual MOT test in May.

At the beginning of April this year I had an issue with fuel contamination and the van was parked up for a few days waiting for a fuel filter.

When the filter arrived I opened the bonnet and just behind the filter housing I discovered that, what I assumed was a mouse or vole had created a food store containing fruit stones which it appeared to have been cracking open for the seeds.

These little stones were about 5 x 4 mm and upon investigation, turned out to be from last years crop of Bird Cherries.

It presented an opportunity to illustrate that the "mouse" appeared to crack them longitudinally, in much the same way that squirrels open Hazel nuts.

There is however, one small problem with this. Mice and voles don't crack, they gnaw and the only animals to open cherry stones in this way, of which I am aware are the Greenfinch and Hawfinch.
This of course raises the question of what was a Finch doing up inside the engine compartment of a motor vehicle.

Neither can I imagine that a mouse or vole would go to the effort of carrying opened stones to a food cache when they present no nutritional value.

All in all it's a bit of a mystery which I may never get to the bottom of; but if anyone has anything they can add to this I would be really pleased to hear from you.

Images on the left are:

From the top.  The cache of stones from the engine compartment.




and at the bottom are, I believe, galls induced by the larvae of a mite.

You can find much more information about Bird Cherry by visiting this "Trees for Life" species profile page

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This web site is about the wildlife, particularly the mammals, of the Glen Affric National Nature Reserve area in the north west Highlands of Scotland, UK; and the equipment I use to search for them, which is chiefly trail cameras.

I provide a technical support and parts service for the Ltl Acorn range of cameras and the income from this provides for the upkeep of this site and the purchase of cameras for my own surveying.

I hope you find the site useful and informative; and please contact me if you have any questions that I haven't already covered.