Arable habitat use by wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus). 2. Microhabitat
Tew TE., Todd IA., Macdonald DW.
Forty-eight wood mice Apodemus sylvaticus were radio-tracked over an estimated 1500 h yielding 9000 fixes. The mice were living in three contiguous arable fields, and showed that they respond to weedy microhabitat patches within superficially homogeneous crops. Plant species' abundance and the composition of the seed bank were assessed in quadrats taken in areas in which (a) mice foraged, (b) through which mice travelled, or (c) at random within each home range. Wood mice avoided foraging in areas with a high abundance of bare earth, and selected areas with a high abundance of Alopecurus myosuroides, Stellaria media, Avena fatua, Galium aparine or Bromus sterilis. The food plants apparently selected by wood mice differed markedly between months and between sexes. This may relate to the energetic and nutritional demands incurred by the contrasting reproductive tactics of male and female wood mice. There were no differences between seed bank samples taken from quadrats where the mice foraged, travelled through, or which were selected at random. Our study, the first large-scale analysis of wood mouse microhabitat preference using radio-tracking, reveals that whereas the mice do not react to heterogeneity on the scale of the mosaic of crop fields, they are greatly influenced by the dispersion of food plants within the superficially homogeneous crop itself.