2022, a good year for Hazel Dormice or not…?

Doremice stara woodsIt will take time for all the national data to be scrutinised and comparisons made but locally, for the two nest box sites and at others in the Lynher valley, the answer is just one word, mixed. Numbers found in the boxes were slightly up in Colquite and all the dormice looked healthy so they may have bred in natural nest holes in the trees. But in Treovis & Broad Woods, we found just six compared to twenty-three the previous year. And there were no signs of breeding as there were in two sites nearby.

My question was ‘Why this difference?’ Maybe due to general disturbance by people and dogs but then we are not seeing so many visitors now that people are freer to go elsewhere and there were no signs of the boxes being tampered with. Colquite is quieter and fewer people use the smaller, steeper paths. With the hot dry weather, I would have expected the boxes near to the river to have been used more because of the humidity but the dryness encouraged an early leaf fall especially from the birches and willow so perhaps less leaf cover and therefore, loss of shelter could be another factor.

Dormice are elusive and populations are thinly spread but what was equally interesting is that we found far fewer Wood Mice and shrews in the boxes until quite late in the autumn. Being pragmatic, perhaps a hot, dry box is not the best place to raise a family for any small mammal. Birds nested earlier and only a few nests failed which is normal.

Doremice stara woods

And there is a little bit of news regarding the footprint tunnels and nest tubes that we placed at the top of Broad Wood to see if dormice were venturing into the newly planted area behind the barn. I totally underestimated the height and growth of the bracken which covered the posts and flags. It became impossible to fight a way through so no footprints apart from those of small birds found early on. Autumn & winter clearance revealed a tunnel with a dormouse nest inside and a nest tube with a nest quite close to the boundary with Treovis Wood. I hope we can continue this year but with a more accessible layout.

Next month we will be replacing several older boxes in Treovis Wood and our monitoring season will begin in mid-April. Numbers rise and fall so we’ll hope to see more animals this coming season and we politely ask dog walkers to keep to the paths with their dogs on leads. The wildlife in these woods is really rather special and deserves to be cared for.