Some of you may remember saga of the Dormice here in the garden, their hibernation nests which we found and the planning permission which we opposed when their habitat was threatened by the building next door. So far, no trees or hedges have come down and the houses are almost finished, so far, so good. The huge extension to the school hasn’t taken place, a couple have bought it and say it is plenty big enough as it is. The smaller of the 2 houses is finished and occupied but they have a cat who seems to think our garden is a happy hunting ground for it, early this morning I saw it, making its way home but a few paces behind was a fox! Do the dormice stand a chance with a cat next door, I wonder.
Last Christmas I was given four Dormice nest boxes to put in the garden and during the summer these were placed out of the way, at the back of hedges in areas where we never normally go.
The first box was put up behind a holly bush in the border by the field. This is just over the spot where I found the original nest made from beautifully interwoven grass. I was holding a branch to one side so that I could take the photo, it can hardly be seen now.
The second box was placed in the beech hedge up at the top of the garden by the field.
We tried to put one into the woodland, it seemed the obvious place for one, but all the trees were too big for the ties that were provided. At the back of the border by the school, where it is very dark inside a laurel bush, we found the perfect spot. This photo was taken with the flash as it was so dark, so I think it will be well camouflaged.
The fourth box was placed in a hawthorn bush which is behind the pond, I had to be careful stepping back to take the photo, one more step and I would have been in the pond! The eagle eyed amongst you might be thinking as I was, where is the hole for the dormouse to get in, well it is round the back between 2 pieces of batten holding the box proud of the tree trunk, I hope the dormouse finds it!
The dormouse is well protected in this country with plenty of laws to protect the dormice themselves, as well as their habitat. It needs protecting as it is an endangered species with their numbers declining rapidly due to hedges being ripped out and the changes in farming practises. In spite of this, due to building demands on the countryside, their habitat is being destroyed, every day more hedges and trees are cut down and these are the pathways that the dormice use to get from one feeding area to another.
Many thanks again to Bengt Lundberg and the BBC Website for this lovely photograph. For those of you not living in the UK, this is our beautiful dormouse with lovely golden fur and a furry tail. They are very small, only about 4 or 5 inches long, including the tail and live where there is oak, hazel, honeysuckle and bramble, which we have in abundance, feeding on nuts, fruit and the pollen from flowers. It sleeps during the day and hibernates from October to April. We were so lucky to find 2 nests when we were tidying at the back of borders, the first one in 2010 had a dormouse in it, it was quickly returned to where I found it and the second was in the summer of 2011 and was empty, I’m not so tidy now! We also saw one when we were watering the strawberries in 2011 and one rather wet dormouse jumped out, we don’t know if it was sleeping there or was having a good feed and had forgotten to go home!
So, their homes are ready for them, if any decide to hibernate early. They were put up early enough for them to get used to them and for them to hopefully lose the human smell. We may have one occupied this winter if we are very lucky, once we know a box is occupied by a hibernating dormouse, they must not be disturbed and we have been asked to inform the Devon Wildlife Trust in case they wish to monitor them. I hope you would agree that such a lovely creature is worth protecting and deserves a home to safely hibernate in.