Carmarthenshire Dormouse Project – March Update from Richard Pond

On Saturday 17th March I met up with Jacqueline and Paul Hartley (local dormouse experts) at Rhos Cefn Bryn reserve to give the dormouse nest boxes their annual spring clean.

Jacqueline and Paul had brought along some drainpipe boxes and were affixing them above the traditional wooden boxes, situated along the right hand fence line hedgerow of the left field. I greeted them with a spade in hand and a one-year-old hazel whip that had been given to me by Judith Weatherburn manager of Llyn Llech Owain Country Park to plant in the wood. I had already planted two other hazel whips that were acquired from a funded project by Lizzie Wilberforce Conservation manager WTSWW of planting a hedgerow up on private land near to Rhos Cefn Bryn reserve, to improve dormouse habitat.

It was an overcast sky with a cool breeze but remained dry for us. We entered the “special “ wood, which is only 0.3ha to carry out the necessary cleaning maintenance. Some boxes contained occupied wood mouse nests and they leaped from the top of the boxes into the air with comical acrobatic alacrity!

Pygmy shrew by Richard Pond

Pygmy shrew by Richard Pond

One box had pygmy shrews, also camera shy and made good escape. Sorex minutus Pygmy shrew is generally considered to be scarcer than the common shrew, or even rare, but usually in numbers where it is found and is our smallest mammal with a fully grown adult body length measuring at only 6cm long!

I made one grisly find in a drainpipe nest box of a dead dormouse and we gave it a burial in the leaves on the ground at the base of the tree … “it’s what he would have wanted”. The Peoples Trust for Endangered Species had requested that dead dormice be sent to them for laboratory examination but it was considered that the decomposition was too advanced to be of any researchable use.

This year I am grateful for the opportunity to have grasped the baton from Jan Crowden and Jacqueline and Paul to take charge of dormouse monitoring at Rhos Cefn Bryn for the National Dormouse Monitoring Program and I hope that last year’s incredibly successful monitoring numbers will be repeated again this coming season! I intend to re - number the boxes and also wish to incorporate 24 nest boxes situated in nearby woodland from my internship project into this coming season dormouse monitoring.

Jacqueline and Paul will be training a few people to handle dormice to enable them to attain their CCW dormouse handling and disturbance licence at this year’s monitoring at Rhos Cefn Bryn. Charlie Evans of Grasslands Trust and manager of Carmel reserve, Simon who is a warden at Llyn Llech Owain Country Park and Malcalm who is a knowledgeable amateur naturalist and a volunteer at Llyn Llech Owain Country Park and at Carmel reserve.

Carmarthenshire Biodiversity Partnership have provided 50 nest boxes for the Grasslands Trust at Carmel reserve and 50 nest boxes for Llyn Llech Owain Country Park and these people are a welcome addition to be licensed to monitor dormice for the NDMP in Carmarthenshire.

Richard Pond