It’s been an amazing few months at my dormouse site, with lots of breeding and therefore lots of bouncy baby dormice to record.
August was a remarkable box check as we found nearly every stage of dormice (pinkies, greys whose eyes have not yet opened, greys with eyes open, older juveniles, adult testes scrotal males, adult females (lactating, pregnant)). This was great for the trainees who came out with me, who need experience of dormice at all these stages as part of their training. And it’s good to see little dormice!
September was even more amazing. Out of 50 boxes, 9 contained dormice, but most of theses were young families, so in total we recorded over 40 individual dormice. I have never found that many on a box check before. For comparison, the most we saw on a single box check at my site last year was around 10. As you can imagine, it takes quite a while to extract, weigh, sex and replace that many dormice, but no-one was complaining! It’s fantastic to see them do so well this year.
After the previous two months, I was expecting lots of activity on the October box check. In the end, it was comparatively quiet. We only found 4 (mostly this year’s young, dispersed from their maternal nests), plus one nest that was empty but warm. Hopefully that means that September’s young have all grown up and dispersed around the wood, concentrating on fattening up before winter. None of the ones we found were torpid (although perhaps some have gone into hibernation already).
I was really encouraged to see a new nest in a box we haven’t previously found dormice in – it’s great that they seem to be using the whole site, not just a small pocket of it.
Of course not all the young dormice will make it through the winter, but hopefully the relatively mild autumn is giving them plenty of opportunity to fatten up and give themselves the best chance of waking up next April/May. We didn’t find any particularly fat dormice in October (unlike at one SDG site, where they found a 38g monster!), but they were all weights that mean I’m not too worried for their chances of survival.