Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Wednesday 20th.May 2009

After yesterday's heads down all day replacing stiles on footpaths across the Greensand Way , with just a few Pheasants seen , today promised better with the monthly Reptile and Dormouse survey on the same Ridge .
50 Dormouse boxes were the first to be inspected , but it wasn't Dormice that were found to begin with , as many were occupied by Blue or Great Tits , with families ranging from not long hatched , to almost ready to fledge .
Some boxes contained the nests of other species , like this one occupied by a Wren , with eggs still to hatch . We were nearly half way through the boxes before the first Dormouse was found .
It looked like a temporary nest , and when I felt inside , I found this male , in a torpid , semi -
hibernation state . After weighing him , all records going to the monitoring programme run by the Mammal Society , I returned him to his nest , but as I put him back , I felt another animal at the back . It was another male , and he too was in a torpid state . A few boxes on , we found a family of Marsh Tits , and they were on the verge of fledging , perfect replicas of their parents .
After this excitement in the middle , the second half retuned to Great and Blue Tit's nests , every now and again . On the top of this site are a few refugia to be turned , but apart from one Slow Worm , nothing was found under them , but two Grass Snakes , one a good sized female laying out on a brash pile , were recorded .
Two other small sites , with 5 pairs of refugia on each , were then visited , with 3 Grass Snakes , 2 under a refugia , and a Common Lizard recorded at one , and a male Adder , that didn't want to be photographed , and a Grass Snake that was quite happy to pose for the camera . May of the refugia are used by Wood Ants , and several were seen doing their housework with their eggs .
On the acidic areas , as well as Bilberry , Cow Wheat is found , and this is coming into flower now , just a shame that we don't have the Heath Fritillary butterflies , for which it is the foodplant , to go with it .
The last site has 20 Dormouse boxes and about the same number of pairs of refugia , and almost immediately , a female Adder was found under one of the tins . Another female and a male were also recorded here , as were 4 more Grass Snakes . Around one of the lakes , a Grey Heron stood like a sentry on duty , watching us pass by . I must say the birdsong was terrific today , with a good mix of Warblers and Thrushes , and a good sprinkling of Corvids .
The 20 boxes contained a few more Tit families , but also 3 more Dormice , and these three were not torpid , in fact the 2 males and one female were very active . A close up of one of the males found , shows the wonderful whiskers that the Dormouse possesses , needed for moving around in the trees at night . And finally the one female that we found already co-habiting with her mate .

Just to repeat what I said last year , it is an offence to disturb Dormice , with fines running into thousands of pounds . We have licenses to handle them , and the monitoring is done with the least stress that can be managed .


Warren Baker said...

I think this is one of your best posts ever Greenie!

Do all your nests go to the Nest Record Scheme at the BTO ?

I find it strange that the blue tits nests are so far apart in their development. It's the same with my families in my boxes.

Oh, and thanks for the Damselfly info!

ShySongbird said...

What a lovely post, with beautiful photos. How privileged you are to have access to all those nests and I'm so glad you emphasised that it is an offence to disturb Dormice and I just hope no one would be foolish enough to disturb a bird's nest either, but there are some very ignorant and malicious people about!

Greenie said...

Warren ,
I don't know what information the BTO would want , but sometimes , 30 of the 50 Dormouse boxes are occupied by Tits . We record for Mammal Society records that they are being used by Tits , but our recording takes all day as it is .
If you let me know what info. is required , I'll put it to the 'Boss'.
ShySongbird ,
Thank you for your kind words . Yes I am very privileged , and like you , hope others respect the wildlife around us .

Phil and Mandy said...

Well Greenie, as Warren has said, what a fantastic post and the photos are brilliant. Has bought a huge smile to my face. Phil

Kingsdowner said...

Great post, and a lovely way to spend a day.
Are dormice generally this dozy, or is it a reflection on the cold weather?

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Greenie.
Now that's what I call a good day's work/nature watching. Lovely set of photo's, but what a cute picture of the 2 semi dormant Dormice. If that doesn't make people smile I don't know what will.

Greenie said...

Steve ,
Spring and Autumn , we find both torpid and active animals , like we did yesterday .
There doesn't seem to be any general rule .
When warm , like yesterday , just the extra warmth of the hand starts to bring them out of torpid state , so we handle as little as possible .