Dormice are elusive at the best of times, even in places where they are known to live. Our Dormice Volunteers will vouch for that! Our Brecknock team wanted to prove that there was a population on a reserve where they were not previously known to live.
In 2018 a single dormouse nibbled nut was found on Allt Rhongyr. This gave the team hope that there were resident dormice but with little other evidence a survey was needed. Early in 2019 about 50 dormouse tubes were put out in the lower wooded slopes of the reserve. These tubes are a useful tool to detect whether dormice are present or absent. They are smaller, lighter and cheaper than the full sized nest box which means that more can be put up, covering a wider area. They were left undisturbed during the summer and autumn.
On a dismal day in October, Brecknock staff set out with five volunteers to collect the tubes and discover whether they had been used by dormice, or anything else. The rain was falling steadily as the team walked down to the wood so it was decided that the brambles that encroached on a section of path would need to be cleared first. Splitting into two groups the team made their way around the locations where the tubes were placed. One by one the wires were unwound and the contents inspected, being careful to keep the opening clear in case a wood mouse ran out. Two contained leaves and one a stash of nuts. Most contained just woodlice and slugs. Lovely!
Dormice don’t hoard nuts, preferring to eat on the go. That stash was probably from a wood mouse or yellow-neck mouse.
The nests of dormice are usually constructed with hazel leaves that are picked when green. These then dry to an olive colour. The nests are quite tidy and have a definite structure. Of the two tubes with leaves, one did contain hazel leaves that had an olive tint. There were even two greener leaves that had been pulled in more recently but it lacked structure. The other contained a jumbled mess of ash leaflets. These have been confirmed by our mammal expert as possible dormice nests that have been disturbed, probably by wood mice.
It is intended that we repeat the survey in 2020.
If you would like to get involved, why not become a volunteer?
More information can be found here