Tag Archives: dormouse box check

August dormousing: a new nest

August is firmly into dormouse breeding season, so it’s always an exciting month to check boxes. Added to the usual suspense of will there be a sweet dormouse in this box, is the added possibility of even sweeter baby dormice. So, on a sunny morning trekking through the woods in search of dormice is a rather pleasant occupation.

The woods are much quieter in August – the birds have finished breeding, and are quietly focused on food rather than defending territory or attracting mates with their song. And, while we saw deer prints, we didn’t see or hear any actual deer.

It was a lovely warm morning – a good one to be scrambling about the woods. This was the 6th box check I’ve led at this site, so I’m getting better at knowing where all the boxes are (except the elusive box 27, which is hidden in a hazel under a fallen yew).

For this month’s check I was assisted by Dr C, a couple of volunteers plus a 10 year old girl. So what did we find? Well, the birds have long ago finished nesting, so there were plenty of smelly old nests to be cleaned out. There were no signs of wood mice or yellow necked mice, but there were signs of dormice. In addition to the adapted bird nest we found a dormouse in back in June, there was a new nest, made with very fresh, green hazel leaves on top of an old bird nest. It was in the last box we checked – I’ve done so many box checks where we find dormice in the final box, I was very hopeful when found this.

I’m confident that it’s a dormouse nest – apodemus mice tend to use brown leaves, and don’t weave it together neatly like this one was. But it didn’t use any honeysuckle bark, which dormice in Surrey often do. We explored the nest carefully, especially since it’s so fresh – the leaves looked like they’d only just been picked off the trees. But sadly the dormouse who made it wasn’t at home.

Dormousing isn’t the ideal wildlife activity for a child – most of the boxes were too high for her to see into, but at least she got a chance to have a look at a couple of dormice nests when we took the boxes off the tree and into the bag for exploration. Plus there were deer prints to spot, wood sorrel to taste and old birds nests to remove. So hopefully there was enough of interest not to put her off. And she was good at looking for the boxes (which reminds me a bit of letterboxing on Dartmoor).

So, I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to see any dormice, but pleased that there are signs of fresh dormouse activities. Hopefully September will bring us better luck.

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Dormouse box cleaning

It was lovely to get back to the woods this weekend for my first dormouse session of the year. Box checks naturally come to a halt over winter (an advantage of monitoring an animal that hibernates), so it has been a few months since I last helped at a check.
Most dormice are still hibernating in March, so the focus of Saturday’s session was to clean and repair the boxes, ready for when the dormice emerge. We were a bit worried that we may have left it too late this year, with the warm weather meaning spring seems to be springing earlier than usual. But we didn’t find any dormice, and not many birds have started nesting in the boxes either.
We had a lovely day for it. Quite a contrast to most of the box cleaning sessions that I have done, where my hands become numb from cold within the first few minutes.
While we didn’t find any dormice, there were quite a few wood mice that had to be evicted from the dormice boxes.
Orchids and bluebells have already come up (although not in flower yet),  while primroses and violets were blooming. I was expecting more trees to have come down in the storms, but not many appear to have been damaged,  at least in the parts of the wood we monitor.
Anyway, the boxes are now clean and ready for dormice to occupy. The next check should be exciting.