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Dormouse monitoring Credit: Ian Court

Upskill Down Dale take part in a Hazel Dormouse Nest Box Spring Clean

Tuesday 26 March, 2024, by Hermione Pocock

The Upskill Down Dalers were a great help to the Wildlife Conservation Office Ian Court and accompanied him and me (Hermione Pocock Tees-Swale Youth Engagement Officer) in February to help with nest box clearing.

The reason that the boxes needed clearing out was because animals such as brown mice and wrens make their own little homes in the boxes as well! The wrens make a nest that is moss-covered on the top. This is very different to a hazel dormouse nest which is a tightly bound sphere of grass topped with hazel leaves.

By cleaning out the boxes it means that during the monitoring season, the wildlife team will know that any nests found will be from this season. It is also good for the wildlife (whoever may choose to make the nest box its home) to have a nice clean box and start with fresh foliage!

The Upskill Down Dalers also carried out repairs to the boxes. This could have been repairing the wire that was used to close the boxes. Or repairing the bungee cord that attaches the boxes to the tree trunk. Some of the boxes also needed replacing if they didn’t have a bottom or a lid! (This won’t be a very cosy dormouse nest!).

The dormice don’t hibernate in the boxes over winter, so it is a good time to do a spring clean as we didn’t disturb them.

They also got the opportunity to learn about the dormouse conservation that the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority is doing. Hazel Dormice are endangered species as they have declined over the last 100 years due to habitat loss. The Hazel Dormice were reintroduced to Freeholders wood in Aysgarth from London Zoo. Freeholders was historically a dormouse habitat. There are records dating back hundreds of years that mention sightings of them. It is very suitable as the hazel trees are still coppiced. This means that the dormice have young trees that have hazel nuts for them to eat!

Hazel Dormice are quite distinctive as they are ginger in colour and have a fluffy tail, unlike other mouse species! They also have very round and big eyes. They’re my favourite mouse species!

Thanks to all the efforts from the Up Skill Down Dale group this year’s survey season should go smoothly and we should have some happy dormice!

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Hermione Pocock

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