by Matt Parkins
The series of presentations on the habitat restoration work at Fingle Woods continued on a sunny Thursday evening with a walk and talk about dormice. Starting at the woodland entrance above Clifford Bridge we discussed the ecology and habits of dormice, talking about their seasonal changes in diet from springtime buds and flowers to aphids and caterpillars through the summer. Looking through a set of photos we saw how, with age, the fur changed from grey to golden and how the ankle joint can swivel to suit the direction of ascents and descents while performing acrobatics in trees.
Moving to the top of Cod Wood we had a short walk into a known dormouse habitat. The tell-tale gnawed hazelnuts have been found all around this area, even among the dense douglas fir where individual, spindly hazel plants survive in the semi darkness. A set of nest boxes has been installed ready for monitoring later in the year. It’s going to be interesting to see how the dormice enjoy the clumps of red currants growing in this part of the wood.
Across the road we had a quick look at the small black tubes that have recently been set up to catch dormice in preparation for a PhD study looking at the dispersal of dormice in response to the coming winter’s forestry work. The results of tracking these animals will be very helpful in understanding which areas of habitat conservation to focus on and provide the optimum protection for dormice.
The final discussion took us to an area of mixed conifers and broad-leaves next to the weir pool. The initial habitat survey had identified the riverside corridor as a well-used link connecting a number of feeding and nesting sites. A set of nest boxes had been put here a few weeks ago and were immediately occupied. Foraging on the ground we looked about for nibbled cherry stones (as reported in a previous blog). These wild cherries provide a reliable source of nutrition at this time which might explain why there is so much dormouse activity. Towards the end of the walk the sun was beginning to dip which hurried us along to one of the boxes to see if any dormice were in the nest; we needed to get there before they went foraging for the evening. Fortunately, one healthy female was at home, and very active. After a demonstration of how to conduct a licensed survey she was placed carefully back into the nest box hole. In true dormouse style she took her time to return to her nest, giving everybody the chance to admire her furry tail and double jointed foot, twisted back.
photo credit: Bas Payne