Many thanks to CMG member Lynne Sharpe for the following piece, and for my near neighbour, smallholder and amazing photographer Dave Bevan for very kindly supplying some of his fabulous photos of small mammals to illustrate this post.
Despite a lifetime (three score years and ten) of walking in forests and fields, I have to admit that I have never seen a wild dormouse, Muscardinus avellanarius.
Twenty years ago, when I moved to my present home in Brechfa Forest, I hoped that the abundance of hazel thickets, brambles and overgrown hedges might be a refuge for some of these delightful – and seriously endangered – little creatures. But if they are there, they are certainly living up to their reputation as “shy and elusive” as I have seen none.So I was delighted to meet dormouse expert Peter Beeden among the walkers on the CMG visit to Waun Las last week and to learn that there is a way to establish whether dormice are present. This is done by placing special dormouse nest tubes around the site and checking for signs of their being used.I found two websites offering these tubes and also giving useful information as to when, where and how to use them:
“Dormouse nest tubes provide a cheap and efficient method of determining the presence of dormice within a habitat as they can be deployed in large numbers for a relatively low cost. The nest tube essentially consists of two parts – the wooden ‘tray’ and the nesting tube. Dormice form nests in these tubes and it is these nests that are used as indicators of their presence in the habitat. Note: Dormice are legally protected and must not be handled unless you have a licence to do so. Nest tubes can be set up and monitored without a licence until a dormouse is found. After that only a licensed handler can check them.”
British dormice are certainly in need of help, especially in Wales, as is made clear by this report, published in The Guardian in September 2016:“Numbers of Britain’s native dormouse have declined by more than a third since 2000, according to the first definitive report on the state of the species.
The tiny, golden-brown animals were once widespread throughout England and Wales, but have become one of Britain’s most threatened mammals due to loss and fragmentation of their woodland habitat, changes in land management and a warmer climate.
“The state of Britain’s dormice remains precarious: the population decline apparent at monitored sites continues and a changing climate makes their future uncertain,” says the report, The State of Britain’s Dormice, published by the wildlife charity the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES).
The charity found the number of hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) counted at nest boxes in England and Wales since 2000 has fallen by 38%, and 55% since the mid-1990s.” But all is not lost, as shown in a very exciting report posted November 2016 :
“Scientists find dormice at new site in Carmarthenshire
Research and monitoring by a partnership of organisations working for wildlife conservation in Carmarthenshire, including Swansea University College of Science, has demonstrated the presence of hazel dormice at a new site near Llannon.”
The National Dormouse Monitoring Programme also produces an excellent magazine ‘The Dormouse Monitor’ which is available on their website. Dave comments that other animals to consider if you see evidence of small mammals are the equally scarce (in Wales), Harvest mouse, (Micromys minutus) which as you can see has a prehensile tail which it finds invaluable for hanging onto to vegetation, and has different markings. There is a great source of more information on these small animals, on the Harvest mouse UK website. Click here. You’ll realise from much of this, and the photos, how vital hedgerow trees and brambles are as habitat and food sources for many of these animals – perhaps further justification for leaving uncut peripheral edges to our meadows?
It’s actually much more likely that small mammals encountered in our meadows will be the more common short tailed field vole (Microtus agrestis)…
These photos represent a HUGE investment of time, effort and skill in their taking. I’m pleased if I can get a long distance shot of a fox in our meadows,(below), so once again a big thank you to Dave for supplying them for me to use as illustrations to accompany this piece. I think I owe him some firewood! ______________________________
Many thanks too to CMG member Rachel Barber for the following photos taken of recent sighting at her meadow near St.Clears…
Below are a couple of photos of what I think is an oil beetle. I found it on my back door – but it likes flower rich meadows, apparently. Buglife has a useful section on them -and a download
I have also just spotted another variety of orchid in our fields. Over the last couple of years we have seen an increasing number of the early purple orchids – which are followed by a couple of common spotted orchids. This year the common spotted are not yet flowering – but I do see that they appear to have acquired a third plant so one more flower spike to come. However, I this weekend, I came across another orchid. Looking at online id sources, it seems to be a southern marsh orchid – but I could be wrong and if anyone can put me right on this it that would be appreciated. I have three plants in total that I have found so far – two in a little group and one on its own. Here are three pictures – one close up and two with the plant sitting in the grass.
Thanks for reading, and remember I’m always happy to receive any suitable articles or photos to include as blog posts. Please send them to me…
Julian Wormald… email@example.com
Great article Lynne and yes, fantastic photos. Re- the orchid. The flowers and leaves suggest heath spotted orchid to me. Check if the stem is solid or hollow – southern marsh have hollow stems.
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