After the long, dull months of winter, it was a relief to get back out in the woods, checking dormouse boxes. We always start the dormousing year by cleaning out the boxes, ready for the dormice as they emerge from hibernation. This year we also had some new nest boxes to install, bringing my site up to 50 boxes.
It was cold and overcast when we met on Saturday morning, but the stroll from the car park to the site warmed me up a bit, and after that I was too absorbed by the task in hand to notice the chill. I had a good team of volunteers helping me, so we got the new boxes up efficiently. We’ll find out next month if my mapping is good enough to help me find the new boxes again.
Dormice aren’t usually up and about in March, but this winter has been unusually mild. I’d heard several reports of dormice being found at other sites in Surrey already, so we approached all the established boxes with care. This paid off when we found a shrew in an old nest. Some of the old nests had deteriorated over winter, and had got damp or were messy from other temporary box visitors. These we cleaned out. Other dormouse nests appear to have been improved since our previous visit in November. These we left. A couple of boxes were showing early signs of new birds nests being built, so we left these as well.
Even better, we found a torpid dormouse in one of last year’s nests! This was a real treat, as the earliest dormouse I found at my site last year was not til June. It was very tightly curled, which made it difficult to sex. But it was a very healthy post-hibernation weight: 18g. After the winter break it’s always nice to start off with an easy to handle torpid dormouse.
So, a good start to the dormousing year. Let’s hope it continues that way, and the dormice enjoy their new boxes.