Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Small Mammal Activity

Last night I attended a lecture organised by the Oxfordshire Mammal Group, given by Dr Paul Chanin about dormice.  I had not met Paul for almost 20 years when I was a member of a group led by him to the South Uists almost twenty years ago to look for otters.   That introduction developed into a complete fascination for otters and one of the reasons why we lived on Skye for 12 years.

There are very few sites for dormice in Oxfordshire; the Chiltern woodlands in south Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire are a mainstay, and it was there when I helped with a nestbox survey that I saw my one and only dormouse.  Interesting was one of Paul's observations that they are more catholic about habitat than was once believed.  The classic habitat is hazel woodland, but it seems that they will nest in hedgerows, and even culm grassland.

Could they be more widespread?   There are no records anywhere near Hook Norton, but maybe we need to look a little harder.  I took a look at the hedge in front of our house - several feet thick and probably old with the right combination of foodstuff such as hazel, crab apples, sloes and brambles, and hawthorn in Spring,-  not surprisingly, but defying hope the survey proved negative.   But also not surprisingly there were quite a few nuts which had been chewed by woodmice - vertical chisel marks with scuffing at the top.  

We have also got moles working away at the grass verge beneath the hedge.   I have never seen a live mole; dead ones only - farmers up in the Lake district used to catch them and pin the dead bodies to a fence - I know next to nothing about them and in my naïveté I put out a trail camera where there has been activity.  Nothing, apart from a couple of pigeons and house sparrows.   I think some proper research is needed!

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