A Dormouse Wood

It is impossible not to be charmed by a Dormouse but these lovely little animals are in great trouble in Britain. An ecologist from the Kent Mammal Group visited us in the wood about a year ago to talk about managing the woodland for Dormice and advise on how to discover if there is already a population present.

When not hibernating, Dormice live at the tops of trees and are nocturnal and so it is very easy to have Dormice and just not realise it. We bought some mammal footprint tunnels to strap to branches because Dormice have distinctive footprints, but Covid got in the way this year and we never got round to putting them up.

However, even though we failed to get moving on that, we now do know that there are Dormice in the wood because one has made a nest in a bird box:

It is a very special thing to have Dormice because Britain’s population of them has declined by 51% since the millennium. They have been seriously affected by the loss and fragmentation of their woodlands and hedgerows but also by a change in woodland management practices. They need structurally diverse woodland with tree holes to nest in, dense understorey to feed in and hedgerows to disperse through. Coppicing is an important aspect of managing a wood for Dormice because it creates a mosaic of habitats and ensures that there is always Hazel of an age that will produce a good crop of nuts.

Dormice are legally protected and it is an offence to deliberately kill, capture or disturb one. You can put up Dormouse nest boxes and check them but, as soon as you find your first Dormouse, from then on only people with a licence can check the boxes. This is now the position we are in, of course, but we have a trail camera on the bird box to see if we can get some further photos whilst remaining within the law. Here is the best that we have got so far:

Back in the meadows, it is not uncommon to find dead Pygmy Shrews, abandoned by their predator because glands in their skin produce a foul tasing liquid. They are tiny things:

Their whiskers come off their snout at all angles for more effective foraging amongst the leaf litter for insects:

It has been an extraordinary autumn for Lesser Redpolls and hundreds have been moving through the meadows. One day this week, the Bird Ringers caught and ringed a satisfyingly round number of 100 of them here. More than 1,200 have been ringed recently up at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory.

The Crests are now starting to move as well and we have been seeing these diminutive birds hopping around the pine trees and hedgerows. They have also been flying into the Bird Ringers’ nets.

Although we had seen Redwing here before, for the first time one was caught and ringed here this week:

One day a Goosander came in off the sea and flew over the Bird Ringer’s head – this bird goes in as species number 85 on the list. It is quite a strange bird list for a meadow, actually – it doesn’t include some reasonably ordinary birds such as Nuthatch but it does have Gannet, Goosander and Goshawk.

Now that the wild pond is once again an open expanse of water, we hoped that it might attract down some passing waders and waterfowl. Sure enough, the dog found a small duck on the pond one morning but barked at it and scared it away before we could get a proper look. This was very annoying because we have only seen Mallards here before and this duck was smaller than that. Does the dog not realise that we wanted that bird on the list?

The reeds that we pulled out from the pond were stacked near the Badger sett to see if they cared to use them for bedding.

They did – we suspected they would. Even though the reeds can hardly be soft and hadn’t even had a chance to dry out, a lot have already disappeared underground.

I have been seeing night time images of this Fox in the middle below for several weeks. He catches my eye because he seems older, darker and more moth-eaten than the other Foxes.

And here he is again, on the left, showing that he only has half a tail:

Finally he appeared on the cameras by day and I got a chance to have a proper look at him. He does look like a venerable old boy who has had a hard life, bless his cotton socks. Hopefully he will find some peace here – he certainly seems very fond of the nightly peanuts.

The resident Foxes here all have tails that look pretty much the same colour as their bodies when viewed in the infrared lighting of the trail cameras. This Fox looking in the pear tree is demonstrating this point for me:

But one night this week a Fox with a very different colour tail came through:

What an absolutely amazing tail. I would love to see what this animal looks like by day but sadly this is the only time it has made an appearance.

Meanwhile, buckle up for this week’s photos from the raptor perch cam:

We have now launched the new coppicing season in the wood, putting some visiting family to good use.

A successful start with several coppice stools completed:

This last photo for today was taken through the car window on the way back from the wood. I would like to think that all these Seagulls are an indication that the just-ploughed soil is wonderfully full of worms and other invertebrates and that is lovely to see.

2 thoughts on “A Dormouse Wood

  1. So nice to see your different foxes. Hope the old man stays and you get another visit from the fox with the dark tail. I didn’t know anything about dormice, so thanks for educating me. 🙂 I’m happy you got a visiting Goosander. One of my favourite birds, we have them on our rivers up north.

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    1. We saw our first ever Goosander just a few years ago on the West Dart, high up on Dartmoor, and she had all her babies on her back. It was one of those wonderful nature moments that you never forget. Fantastic birds.

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