Some of you may have read previous blog posts from me about the dormouse monitoring project we have undertaken here at The Donkey Sanctuary. The project is run as part of the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) National Dormouse Monitoring Programme.
Last week the charity hosted a workshop run by PTES to help woodland owners and managers to look after woodlands for dormice; and they used our dormouse woodland here at The Donkey Sanctuary as the afternoon field visit.
It was a thrilling day for me. The workshop was led by national dormouse expert, Dr Pat Morris, who happened to be my tutor at Royal Holloway and whom I had not seen in almost 15 years.
As ever, with people who have yet to visit our fabulous farms here around Sidmouth, there were quizzical eyebrows raised from some of the participants. However, after a brilliant lecture and thoroughly enjoyable site visit in which we met one of the Sanctuary’s dormice in the flesh – everybody left very happy and with a new-found appreciation for the fabulous environment in which we farm. I learnt an awful lot as well!
The star of the show, aside from Dr Morris, was undoubtedly the dormouse we found. In the 20 months in which the scheme has been running, this is still only the fifth dormouse we have found, and only the second this year. It was found in box 49 of 50 on the morning of the workshop by myself and Adrian Bayley and this massive stroke of luck possibly explains my sleeplessness the night before! The mouse was a youngster from this year, male and weighing-in at a mere 8 grams, the 10 days of very warm weather after finding him would have helped get him up to the minimum body weight for successful hibernation, if it had been a normal autumn he might not have been so lucky.
Looking at our dormouse woodland with fresh eyes after the workshop, I noticed that there is very little understory and the majority of the trees are of a similar 10-20 year old age. My next task is to write a simple 10 year management plan for this area, with further input from PTES, specifically to improve certain aspects of the woodland for dormice because, after all, “what is good for dormice is good for many other plants and animals.” This was something of a mantra for the day.
So this winter has instantly been filled with many hours of practical woodland work for me and volunteers to help with, selectively thinning trees and allowing light through to the woodland floor.
If you would be interested in helping with this practical conservation initiative, or any of our other wildlife projects being undertaken on the Sanctuary, please get in touch.