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Country diary: tufts of grass hide tiny breeding chambers

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Hawkerland, east Devon: We search the tussocks for the intricately woven nests that let us gauge harvest mice numbers

I’ll never look at a tussock of grass in the same way again. Hidden within this one was a ball of woven fronds that once cradled life like a beating heart at the centre of the dense cluster of stems.

We had spent more than an hour searching clumps of vegetation beside heathland in east Devon. The light was fading and the two of us, backs bent and several metres apart, moved from tussock to tussock, parting strands to carefully examine the inner recesses. Finally, my expert guide, Sarah Butcher, called me over. Concealed at knee height amid ranks of vertical stalks was a spherical mass, like a tangle of yarn caught in a loom.

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