If you found out that there was a family of wild mice living in your garden, what would you do? Some people would scream, or call the exterminator, or simply leave the mice alone, but not Simon Dell. Simon, a wildlife photographer from the United Kingdom, saw these mice in his garden as an opportunity.
Keep reading to see some of Simon's stunning photographs. Clearly, these mice have very nice landlords. They're also quite photogenic.
How It All Began
One day, while Simon Dell was taking photos of wild birds in his garden, he noticed something small moving around in the grass. He pointed his camera toward the movement and was surprised to see a very cute little mouse looking back up at his lens.
Simon said that the mouse was standing up just like a little meerkat. The mouse was so adorable, and it didn't run away when Simon started photographing it. He seemed to like having his picture taken.
The Mouse Was A Star
The little mouse in Simon's garden was striking all kinds of adorable poses. He had a little glint in his eye that seemed to suggest that he knew what was going on. Simon was sure that he had a model mouse on his hands.
"I knew instantly the cute animal was a star and ran back inside to get a couple of peanuts to put down for him. Sitting there, waiting, it was only minutes before he came back out for the treats," Simon said.
Their Journey Together Had Just Started
That first set of photographs was just the beginning of Simon's mousey adventures. As soon as that mouse started very calmly eating those peanuts, Simon knew that wild mice would become a big feature in his photography.
"It was at that point I thought I would give the little mouse a shelter and safe place to hide and feed," Simon explained. Simon started to develop a sort of friendship with the mice in his garden.
He Had Photographed Mice Before
Simon had actually taken pictures of mice before. He loved how their tiny size made everything around them look giant. Just see how big the apples in this photo look next to the tiny mouse.
"I had a bit of experience taking cute photos of wildlife and mice," Dell said. "I also had another mouse that used to live in my garden shed and only come out after dark. He was a wood mouse, and we named him Stuart."
More Than One Mouse
Stuart may have been the first mouse that Simon encountered (named after Stuart Little, of course), but he wasn't the only mouse.
"He was once a single mouse," Simon explained, "but he left at the start of spring 2018, maybe to find a mate. Hoping he comes back this winter and maybe he could get to know the new mice in the garden." Stuart has gone on his merry way, but Simon has been able to make a lot of new mousey friends.
Other Wildlife In The Garden
Although Simon has set up his garden to be a mouse village, mice aren't the only creatures who visit the property.
"We get all kinds of wildlife in the garden," Simon said. "Many types of birds, such as starlings, house sparrows, blackbirds, robins, and more. Even a grey heron who has taken most of the goldfish from my ponds." Although Simon is fond of all of the animals who pass through his garden, he has a special place in his heart for the wild mice.
Putting Himself In The Picture
Simon built an entire village for the mice, which the mice seem to like very much. The village also looks great in Simon's pictures. It's a win-win situation.
Simon has gotten really good at constructing little structures and props for his mice to pose with while he's photographing them. He even fabricated a miniature version of himself to put in the mouse village. How adorable! The mice really seem to be interested in mini-Simon.
The First Mouse In The Village
Today, Simon's mouse village is full of mice, but that wasn't always the case. This whole village started with just one single mouse. Simon named that mouse "George."
"At first there was just the one mouse," Dell recalled. "He had a cut in his ear, and we called him George. I piled some small logs around a box as a home for the mouse and covered it with moss and straw to give him a little shelter."
A Safe Place For George
It wasn't easy for George to move into Simon's garden. The world can be a dangerous place for a little rodent.
"I could see the cats sitting just feet away at the other side of a fence," Simon recalled. Luckily, that little mouse had Simon there to protect him. Simon made sure that his mouse village was full of little secret hideaways. He built a log pile and little mouse-sized houses too keep his new friend safe.
Simon Thought Of Everything
Simon went above and beyond to make sure that the little creatures were safe in his yard.
"I then put up some wire fencing along the fence," Simon went on to explain, "so there was no way the cats could get to the mouse. I also have a small Jack Russell Terrier dog, so the cats know not to come in the garden, and the dog pays the mice no attention." Clearly, Simon was thinking ten steps ahead of those pesky predators.
A Friend For George
George scoped out his new digs, and he must have approved of what Simon constructed, because soon enough, George returned to the mouse village with a friend in tow.
"A couple of days later," Simon said, "I noticed there could be more than one mouse inside the log pile, and it was not long 'till they both came out for a bit of food." George had a girlfriend! And it looked like he was asking her to move in with him.
Creating A Beautiful Habitat
Now that George and his lady had selected Simon's garden as their home, Simon felt a sense of protectiveness for these creatures.
"I decided to build them a home as I wanted to give them a safe place in the garden and not fall prey to cats or other animals," Simon explained. "Also, as I was feeding the mice, it was the right thing to do as I would feel it was my fault getting them to come out if they became prey. Being a wildlife photographer, I wanted to create a nice-looking habitat for any pictures I would take."
The Structures In The Village
At first, Simon started building very simple structures for his mouse village. "The first stage of the log pile was very easy and only took an hour or so to make. As more mice came the following days, however, I made changes, adding more rooms," Simon said.
"The inside of the box structure has 2-3 ways in and out, so they can escape if need be. Over the weeks and months, the log pile village has been steadily growing."
Simon Grew Close To His New Friends
As Simon began spending more time building structures for his mice, he began to feel even closer to these adorable rodents. He decided that George's girlfriend needed a name too, so he decided to call her Mildred.
"I added more space and made it ready for a cold winter, giving the mice the best chance possible to survive. I have counted around 5 or more mice and the female, Mildred, is looking pregnant so hoping we will have a large litter of baby mice around Christmas," Simon explained. Can you imagine all of those mouse babies running around this little village!
The More, The Merrier
Mildred does indeed look like she's expecting, so Simon is preparing to host a lot more mice in his garden."Knowing mice can have up to 14 babies, I could be building many more log pile rooms. But I have space and don't mind living alongside such cute and very photogenic little critters."
Fourteen baby mice at one time sounds like a real handful, but we're sure Mildred and George are up for the challenge. Simon is ready for it, too.
Simon Doesn't Get Too Close
While Simon has done a great deal for this mouse family, he still remembers to keep his distance from George, Mildred, and their little mice. Mice are wild animals, after all.
"The mice seem to love the log pile homes and wasted no time moving in," Simon explained, but "they are wild animals, so they still run if I get too close or move too fast but often I manage to sit down just a few feet away with a zoom lens and they seem happy to pop in and out for nuts or seed."
What The Mice Eat
Simon spends a lot of time building shelters for the mice in his garden, but his kindness doesn't stop there. He also gives his mice plenty of food. So what do they eat?
"The food I give them is usually all-natural," Simon says. "I pick or collect berries, nuts, and fruits that grow wild just over the road in the Shire Brook Valley Local Nature Reserve. I also give them the same mix of seeds that I put on the bird tables along with sunflower seeds and other hazel or walnuts. As a treat, I give them a couple of dry mealworms and some suet pellets but do try and stick to natural, healthy food."
A Rookie Photographer
You've already seen quite a few of Simon's photographs of his mouse village. We can all agree that Simon has a real talent for photography. It might surprise you to learn that Simon hasn't been photographing wildlife professionally for very long.
"I have always liked photography," he says, "but have only owned a DSLR for around three years now, slowly building up my kit and upgrading cameras to improve my skills and also help get better mouse pictures and images of other wildlife."
Simon's Photography Advice
If you want to be an excellent nature photographer like Simon, he has some advice for you: "A better kit and a good lens help," Simon went on to say, "but nothing beat learning how to control the camera, understand the settings, and learn to understand the wildlife you are taking photos of. To help get closer or know where and when to find your subjects."
As they say, practice makes perfect. Just get out there and start snapping photos!
A Very Mouse-y Christmas
Simon decorates his mouse village according to the season. In the wintertime, he puts up stockings and gives the mice little Christmas presents. He makes Christmas trees out of pine cones and feeds the mice festive red berries.
"The mice are still here and living a very happy life," Simon reported. "It is winter now, so the days are shorter and they come out less often. Once it gets dark, it can be hard to see them." Simon regularly posts photos of George, Mildred, and their mouse family on his Facebook page.