After last month’s disappointment (and the huge proportion of boxes that were being used by birds) I didn’t have high hopes for the dormouse box checks this month. But, once again, I was wrong. On my fourth monthly box check we finally found a dormouse!
Just the one, but a very cute one. It only weighed 12.5g, which is quite small for an adult. But weights tend to be low in June, as many won’t have been out of hibernation all that long.
It was the first dormouse I’ve seen this year, so I was quite relieved it was torpid and easy to handle. I think the warmth of my hand started to wake it up, as it clung to my fingers. But it seemed to go straight back to sleep when it was back in its nest, so will just have hazey memories of a weird dream.
I say its nest – in fact, he has just moved into a bird’s nest, so it’s not at all typical of a dormouse nest. Maybe, since it’s so small, it was preserving energy for feeding, and making do with a bird’s nest until it has put on a bit of weight. It’s not unusual for dormice to build a nest on top of a used bird’s nest, but this dormouse hasn’t got round to home improvements yet. All the bird’s nests in boxes were empty this month, so hopefully the dormice will start to recolonise them.
Dormice aren’t the only mice taking over from birds – one former bird’s nest had a couple of apodemus mice hunkering down. I didn’t manage to see their necks, so can’t tell if they were woodmice or yellow necked.
Seeing the dormouse made my day – they really are incredibly endearing. And hopefully it will be the first of many.
I woke up really early on Saturday, I was so excited about checking and cleaning the dormouse boxes at my new site. It’s the first box check I’ve done since getting my licence at the end of last year, and the first one I’ve led. And I don’t know the site that well.
I dreamt that we found a box with five placid, fat dormice. Sadly reality didn’t quite live up to this – all the dormice at my site seem to be hibernating still. (Elsewhere in Surrey one of my fellow dormousers found three, including a chubby 25g male – that’s a good pre-hibernation weight, let alone for one just emerging from hibernation!) But we did find one common shrew, which we quickly let go to find its next meal.
Our main task was to get rid of the manky old nests from boxes, with lots of woodmice or bird droppings, so they’re fresh and clean for when the dormice are active. No signs of any new bird or dormouse nests yet. I was pleased that we were able to find all the boxes – the map I’ve inherited is clear and accurate, which always helps.
In addition to the spring cleaning we had 10 new nest boxes to put up. Luckily I had the assistance of some very helpful volunteers, so we got through all the work in a reasonable time. We managed to find some likely looking hazel stands to put them up on just across the track from the other boxes, so with any luck we will be able to find them again next month. And if we find any dormice in them, we’ll be able to feel a quiet glow of satisfaction that we helped provide the basis of a good home for them.
This is my diary of the wildlife where I live in Oxfordshire, and sometimes the places I visit. I am a 18 year old young naturalist with a passion for British wildlife, especially Badgers and Hares. I have been blogging since May 2013 and you can read my old blog posts at www.appletonwildlifediary.blogspot.co.uk