It’s late November, and despite the usually mild weather, most dormice will be hibernating by now. That gives dormouse monitors some time to take stock of the year, enter data onto the national database, and start planning for next year.
This week I attended a meeting of Surrey Dormouse Group site leaders. It was the first I’ve attended, as I have only just finished my traineeship. It was very interesting to hear about all the different monitoring sites in Surrey – I hadn’t realised how many there were. But then Surrey is the most wooded county in England, and has some good dormouse habitat.
The consensus seemed to be that 2014 wasn’t a great year for dormice in Surrey (with the exception of a couple of very popular sites). This matches my own experiences this year, where several checks I did resulted in no dormice. Some sites had good numbers at the beginning of the season, and then some quiet months. Other sites saw very little until October.
There are many puzzles in dormouse monitoring. Several of the sites adjoin, or are well connected to each other. But there seems to be little link between how well they do in terms of dormice numbers. A couple of sites have big problems with squirrels destroying the dormouse boxes, while in adjacent sites this isn’t an issue.
I’m hoping to get my own site next year, which would be exciting. The group discussed a few possibilities for developing or revamping sites. The main limitation is lack of funding. It costs around £10 to make a dormouse box, and a new monitoring site needs 50, which adds up. We’re going to try to raise some money to allow us to set up new sites, as the data monitoring provides is essential to protect dormice.
Another plan we discussed was doing some habitat work (coppicing trees) to help dormice thrive in our existing sites.
Exciting stuff for the winter, although I suspect the dormice have an even better way of spending the cold months.