We have once again commenced dormouse checks on all boxes and tubes mounted in woodland within our local countryside. Volunteer teams have been undertaking monthly checks on all boxes and records kept. Dormice are rare and even in woodlands where a presence exists they have a patchy distribution. This is thought to be a reflection of either the spasmodic food supply they rely upon or territorial behaviour during the breeding season. Whatever the cause it results in any population being spread thinly and even the best habitats will contain no more than four males per hectare. In the average woodland location detecting dormice often resembles looking for ‘a needle in a haystack’ so patience and an on-going commitment is required.
Our boxes are mounted following the detection of dormice in an initial installation of dormouse investigation tubes. This provides justification for the resulting costly purchase of permanent boxes. They are mounted in the most lucrative food supply areas within the woodland which have a very mixed habitat and obvious provision of food supplies throughout the season between April and November, as dormice do not normally travel far from their nest. In addition to their favoured hazel nuts, the presence of oak, bramble and honeysuckle are valued sources of food.
One of our key team members installing a dormouse box.
Dormice are primarily tree dwellers and it is important that they are able to move from one tree to the next without coming to the ground with a further need to be able to climb between the canopy and the understorey without difficulty. With such demanding requirements it is not surprising that they are scarce, especially with the on-going reduction of suitable natural habitat to sustain them.
Regular monthly inspections are undertaken by licenced volunteers.
It is for this reason that we are not daunted by any lack of dormice found in our inspections but instead monitor their presence through the trail of indicators found in food debris and old nest construction. The knowledge of box use in these circumstances is rewarding in its own right as it proves that they are providing a valuable substitute for dwindling tree holes and helping to maintain the endangered population. Our inspections often reveal many other occupants and have included blue tits, great tits and wood mice this year.
A wood mouse is discovered in one of the boxes.
Sometimes shrews are found.
On occasions we are accompanied by inquisitive Robins who are curious to discover what insects we are disturbing. With many of the boxes containing earwigs, spiders and moths we are able to provide them with delicious snacks and are rewarded by them coming within centimetres of us, with one actually settling on the leg of a volunteer as a box was emptied.
A very friendly robin joins our team as we move from box to box.
An additional woodland has been selected for dormouse investigation within our local countryside and 55 tubes have been installed. These are also being checked regularly and if a presence is found will have permanent boxes erected. Permanent boxes are already being provided in another location following some positive results. We hope eventually to have researched all local countryside locations and provided nest boxes wherever we have detected a presence that needs supporting. Detailed records are kept of each box and its location.
Every box is examined and if no dormice found cleaned of any unwanted debris.
Volunteers are knowledgeable of all requirements and skilfully undertake the inspections.
The expertise gained from these regular checks allows them to be performed swiftly and efficiently with minimum disturbance inflicted on any dormouse found.
All this work to erect and monitor dormouse boxes when added to our other meadow, pond, owl, bat and nature reserve initiatives, adds to the overall work load of the group and demands a lot of volunteer time and effort to achieve. This means we are always seeking additional people to help us as we wish to maintain our support for countryside and wildlife to ensure our work makes a difference to their survival. Anyone interested in helping our effort should contact us through the website link provided.