By Emma Scotney, Ecologist

Since my last blog on dormice in 2019, we have confirmed another site to have dormice present – this time at Wimbleball Lake on Exmoor. This new site comes with a lovely story.

Firstly, we received a report from a site visitor in September 2019 that they thought they had found a hazelnut that had been opened by a dormouse. This hazelnut travelled down to our office at Roadford Lake to be confirmed, and they were right. The smooth, neat and perfectly carved circular hole in the nut was definitely opened and enjoyed by a dormouse.

Knowing this exciting news, we had a special task: to make some wooden dormouse nest boxes. Many volunteers helped to make around 15 dormouse boxes from fallen trees from Burrator Reservoir. In January 2020, we put up these dormouse nest boxes exactly where the nut was found. We waited patiently until June, when the dormice would have come out of hibernation and may have been using our new boxes.two dormice at wimbleball lake

All of our hard work paid off - we found a pair! These were both adults, a sleepy male and female cuddled up in one of our new boxes in the most fabulous woven nest.

We usually take a group of volunteers out on our dormouse surveys; it is a great chance to see this protected species, learn about their ecology and habitats and to engage with nature. I think everyone can say that 2020 has influenced them in some way and unfortunately, it did impact on our ability to safely take out volunteers for our survey work. Volunteers have always been a part of this journey since we started in 2005. Nevertheless, I have been out to each site in May and September and recorded all of the dormice using the nest boxes.

Over all four of our sites I recorded 26 dormice. This year, three of these sites had breeding dormice and so I was able to experience almost all age stages too.

There were some very young dormice, which we call ‘pinkies’ and ‘grey eyes closed’. These are between 0 and 16 days old and will weigh anywhere between 1-10 grams.

young pinkies dormice two grey eye dormice

I also had lots of adult dormice too, the biggest one weighing 27 grams, a very healthy weight for a dormouse!

adult dormouse

As always, we find intruders to the dormice boxes. This year they included bird nests, spiders, slugs, snails, pygmy shrew and bats!

We are proudly part of the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme and so all of our findings go towards understanding dormice ecology and the wider populations. We will continue to keep up our good management to ensure that this protected species continues to succeed at our sites.

I hope to have some volunteers out next year for more amazing surveys.

If you would like to receive details of these dormice events and other wildlife surveys, please email [email protected].