Sleeping soundly.

The sun came out, so yesterday I was digging over what will be the new meconopsis bed. I have mentioned in the past that 2 cotoneaster shrubs had died and left a large gap in the border in the back garden. I was digging out more ivy and brambles, then I decided to have a change and started to clear away all the soil and leaves round the stump of one of the dead shrubs, hoping to reveal the roots so that I could start attacking it. I was using the big garden fork to do this when all of a sudden, there was a spherical ball of decaying grass at my feet.

When I picked it up, the grass almost fell apart and there he/she was, sleeping soundly.

Our little dormouse.

Our little dormouse.

The bundle was quickly handed over to the undergardener while I ran and got the camera.

A bit difficult to make out, but its tail is curling up from the bottom, up over its head at the top, the little pink feet belong to the back legs.

A bit difficult to make out, but its tail is curling up from the bottom, up over its head at the top, the little pink feet belong to the back legs.

It was so tiny, only a couple of inches. It stayed so tightly curled up.

It was so tiny, only a couple of inches. It stayed so tightly curled up.

Same again

Same again, but maybe a little clearer. Just look at the length of those whiskers.

We quickly put the grass back around him/her and I placed the ball back under another shrub, near the trunk, where I won’t be digging, and covered it with lots of leaf litter. Sleep on, little Dormouse, carry on hibernating, I really hope I didn’t disturb you. It’s wonderful to know that they are still with us, giving our garden their seal of approval,  despite all the building work which took place next door over the last couple of years.

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45 Responses to Sleeping soundly.

  1. rusty duck says:

    Oh that’s wonderful. So cute!

    • Pauline says:

      It is gorgeous isn’t it Jessica! I have been and checked on the pile of leaves this morning and everything seems the same, thank goodness. I was very surprised at how the grass ball was so different from the other two nests that I have found previously. Those were made out of long grass, still green, that had been beautifully woven to form the nest, this one was just short pieces, rotting away. Does this mean that I can never dig the backs of my borders in the spring, I will be quite happy to leave them in future!

  2. Wendy says:

    Oh how beautiful. What a wonderful find and it’s lovely that it’s safe with you! They really are the cutest of creatures.

    • Pauline says:

      It certainly is safe with us Wendy. We have known that we have dormice for about 5 yrs now, having seen other nests and the dormouse itself a couple of times. Usually when watering the fruit and veg in the summer, we disturb it having a little feast on the strawberries!

  3. AnnetteM says:

    What a lovely find and great that he stayed asleep. I would have thought he would have woken up by now though – can’t be long? Great photos.

    • Pauline says:

      With freezing temperatures at night time, I think sleeping is the best thing to do Annette! I think it is usually April/May before they come out of hibernation, they do sleep for an awfully long time.

  4. Sally says:

    Hi Pauline,
    Nature triumphs over human “progress”. Your garden is probably full of creatures…..a haven from cement and asphalt.
    He/she is the cutest little thing! I’m glad you told us what it is. The closest we have to that little guy is a chipmunk.

    • Pauline says:

      While they were planning their buildings next door Sally, we were protesting to the council as Dormice are such a well protected species and their habitat is protected by so many laws. No trees or hedges were destroyed thank goodness, but we were so pleased to see the dormouse still with us, it hadn’t given up and moved elsewhere! It is very small, only 2 inches and another 2 inches for its furry tail.

  5. Chloris says:

    What a delightful find. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I have never seen a dormouse before, I have always wanted to, ever since I read Alice in Wonderland as a child. Aren’ t they adorable? Glad to hear you won’ t be shoving it into a teapot. That always disturbed me when I was little.

    • Pauline says:

      Until about 5 yrs ago Chloris I had only seen photos of dormice, imagine how thrilled I was when I saw my first one. The undergardener has seen a couple (it might be the same one each time) in the fruit and veggie garden, when he has been watering early in the morning. They are nocturnal so they must have been on their way home to bed! They hibernate from Oct/Nov to April/ May, sleeping such a lot, hence their name, from the French to sleep! Rest assured, no teapots will go near my little dormouse!

  6. Alain says:

    What a lovely discovery! It looks as if it is going to do well in your garden!

    • Pauline says:

      It’s nice to know they are still around after all the building work that went on for nearly 3 yrs next door, we thought they might have had enough and moved elsewhere!

  7. Anna says:

    So glad that this was a tale with a happy ending Pauline. Fabulous photos. I didn’t realise that they snuggled down in nests for the winter.

    • Pauline says:

      A very happy ending Anna, thank goodness! It was only afterwards when I realised the damage I could have done with the big border fork! We have put up 4 Dormouse boxes round the garden, but having talked to people in Devon Wildlife Trust, the boxes are used during the summer for them to sleep in during the day. For hibernating they always make grass nests and from my own experience of finding 3 nests at different times, they have always been on the ground, tucked up against the trunk of a shrub with a tangle of branches at ground level.

  8. Angie says:

    I think I would cry if I found such a special little creature in my garden. He is obviously very happy and right at home in your garden Pauline. Thank you for sharing these images – amazing!

    • Pauline says:

      It was a very special moment Angie, when I found the first one a few years ago, I was so excited, I forgot to photograph it! You are not supposed to disturb them at all, they are so protected, but I had no idea that it was there and am so glad that I didn’t disturb it. I have checked the pile of leaves this morning and everything is as it was last evening. Obviously I mustn’t tidy the backs of my borders, just in case!

  9. Oh how adorable….such a special gift.

    • Pauline says:

      It is, isn’t it Donna, it was such a wonderful surprise. I’m just so glad I didn’t do it any harm with the fork I was using.

  10. Denise says:

    Oh, how lovely. I do hope there is a Mr(s) Dormouse partner for him/her!

  11. Cathy says:

    Oh it was delightful to see your photos Pauline and hear about the nests – thank you so much for sharing them. It is good to know that they are permanent residents but at least seeing them occasionally confirms their existence.

    I need to mention that there is still something very odd about email notifications to your posts – after that one I had recently I have had no more, whereas the Golfer often gets 2 or even 3 notifications for the same post over a period of a few days…

    • Pauline says:

      This is the first time we have seen one Cathy,since the building stopped next door, so in spite of all the noise and upheaval, they are still with us, thank goodness!
      I’m sorry you are still having problems, another e.mail will go off to my son today, but I’ve checked and you are definitely on my subscription list.

      • Cathy says:

        Oh I think I have given up on receiving email notifications myself, Pauline, but the fact the Golfer often gets 2 or 3 for the same post definitely suggests there is a glitch in the system somewhere…

  12. Kate Patel says:

    How delightful, thank you for sharing your exciting find with us. I’ve always wanted to see a dormouse, so your post is a real treat. The above ground grass nest is interesting too .

    • Pauline says:

      The first one I saw Kate,was a few years ago, again when I was clearing the back of a border and found another nest. I was surprised too when I found that they make their nests on the ground, but the ones I have found have always been in a tangle of low branches where I imagine a predator would find it difficult to get at them.

  13. Cathy says:

    I am so glad you managed to get a quick shot of him/ her before putiing her back in a sheltered spot. I found a hibernating hedgehog in the autumn when tidying up, but was so worried about disturbing him we didn’t even think about the camera! He got moved to a leafy (and safe) corner of the compost heap. 🙂

    • Pauline says:

      I was so excited when I found the first one Cathy, I forgot all about photographing it, this time I made sure that I had a record! I’m glad your hedgehog was moved to a place of safety, we have to do what we can for the wildlife when we disturb them.

  14. snowbird says:

    How brilliant is that, to find a sleepy dormouse! What an adorable little guy and how honoured you must be to have such beautiful creatures in your garden! What a treat this post was, I did enjoy it!xxx

    • Pauline says:

      We do feel honoured Dina, that it has chosen to live in our garden, we must be doing something right! We had a long battle with the council when there were plans to develop the old village school site next door, when the school closed. Knowing what a protected species they are, we felt we had to try and protect the trees and hedges that they wanted to cut down. It’s nice to know that little dormouse didn’t move house when all the building was going on!

  15. catmint says:

    I wonder if it got tired after attending the Mad Hatters Tea Party?

    • Pauline says:

      Who knows Susan, I’m just glad it decided to have it’s rest in our garden! They are such adorable little creatures and are well protected by law as they are endangered.

  16. debsgarden says:

    How adorable! What a treasure to find, and good to know the hands that found it belong to a nature lover! All our hibernating creatures are waking up now.

    • Pauline says:

      It is adorable, yes Deb, they are such lovely tiny creatures that are so well protected by law as they are becoming very scarce in the country. I have always been a nature lover, in spite of being brought up in a town, and am so pleased when anything takes up residence along side us!

  17. Elise Lin says:

    That is such a special find! I adore dormice, and you have obviously handled it with great care or it would have made defensive noises (sounds like a snoring asthma patient) and woke up. From garden dormice I know they “sing” in May, they have a very high pitched voice. I suspect people can only hear part of it since it’s so high pitched. Maybe you can here these ones too in May? And good that you fought for the hedges, because where I live the absence of hedges is what made them go away (and the bushes that are on the edges of forests and meadows, from what I’ve heard they love those too).

    • Pauline says:

      Hi Elise, lovely to hear from you, thanks for stopping by and leaving a message.
      Your knowledge of dormice is amazing, I hadn’t realised that they “snore” when disturbed, I’m so glad I was gentle with it. We will certainly listen out for a high pitched singing in May, is this to attract a mate do you think? We are lucky in that we have a little strip of woodland at the end of the garden with ancient oaks, ash and chestnuts and this joins onto the hedge that runs along one side of the garden, so there is hopefully plenty of habitat for the dormice.

      • Elise Lin says:

        It sounds great where you live, I wish we had dormice in the wild where I live. The “singing” in May may very well be to attract a mate, but from what I’ve seen it’s usually the same dormouse in the group doing it. This is with garden dormice, they breed in May, I’m not sure common dormice behave exactly the same but I imagined their sounds are similar. The one fragment I found doesn’t sound similar, but maybe we can’t hear all their sounds with our human ears. Hopefully we will hear it from you when you hear them. This is the sound fragment from a common dormouse (not singing though) You have quite some experience with dormice behaviour, since you have found out that they hibernate at different locations than where they sleep during the summer. I didn’t know that, it’s very interesting.

        • Elise Lin says:

          Found a better fragment (hopefully it is visible where you have to click, you can click at the little arrow next to the little sound bar with timer)

        • Pauline says:

          Many, many thanks for the recording of the dormouse Elise, what a lovely sound, I now have the voice to add to my photos!
          I wasn’t able to listen to the second recording you sent unfortunately, as a message came up straight away saying that there was an error in ” my SQL syntax” , whatever that may be, but thanks for trying.
          I’m learning more and more about dormice all the time, a few years ago, I knew nothing!

          • Elise Lin says:

            So sorry, apparently the link doesn’t work directly. The home page is There is a yellow bar, and on the right it says: Kontakt (don’t click it). A little above that there is a link called: Zur Datenbank. When you click that you go to the database and you can fill in the name of the animal and click on: Suchen. When you are at the Muscardinus avellanarius page it is the first link (the others don’t work). It’s a bit complicated but the sound sample is very rewarding! Hopefully this works, then you have an even better idea of what to listen for.

  18. annie_h says:

    Oh wow, how lucky and priviledged are you having that lovely creature hibernating in your garden. So exciting. I love the comment above by Elise about them singing, you’ll have to keep us informed about that! Such lovely photos. Ooh that post has really made my day!

    • Pauline says:

      We are lucky aren’t we Annie, we must have plenty of food that he/she likes. We will certainly be listening out for anyone singing in May! It certainly made our day too when we found it, we were walking round the rest of the day with silly grins on our faces!

  19. Christina says:

    Amazing that he/she slept through being disturbed, lovely images and what a sweet little nest. Does the dormouse make the nest itself or take over a bird’s nest?

    • Pauline says:

      As soon as I saw the ball of grass,Christina, I knew what it was, having found 2 previously a few years ago. I knew that I had to be ever so gentle otherwise I would disturb it. Their hibernation nests are made of long grass usually, previous ones have been such amazing spheres of woven grass and always on the ground. This one was different in that the grass was much shorter, so fell apart easily, maybe it was a young dormouse and hadn’t learnt how to weave long grass yet!

  20. Oh what a wonderful find Pauline!

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