Introduction to ‘Habitat Links’ Dormouse Research Project
The dormouse is one of the charismatic species of Fingle Woods that, with attentive investigation, can help us to find the optimum way to restore the various habitats that best suit them. In doing this effectively, we can also benefit many other mammals, birds and invertebrates across the site. As their population across the country continues to decline, the main threats to dormice are from decades of habitat loss and poor management of connecting hedgerows. This is something that we can do something about; we have a good number of dormice around Fingle in various fragments of old woodland and hedgerows and, in these important refuges, we have a compelling opportunity to act. By studying their behaviour and making careful observations, we are discovering more and more about how the Fingle restoration can benefit them, but we need to do it right. By fully understanding their needs through research and studying the effects of our restoration work, a major step is being taken.
Teaming up with People’s Trust for Endangered Species and Imperial College London (eDNA research) a large-scale survey is underway with more possible opportunities to work with researchers from University of Exeter. Since the summer of 2019, the ‘Habitat Links’ survey has been using 150 footprint tunnels and 150 nest boxes to monitor the behaviour of dormice across a large area of the woods where 15 hectares of larch trees were felled under a Statutory Plant Health Notice in the winter 2015/16.
We can see how the habitat is recovering but ‘Habitat Links’ gives us a chance to capture it and share it with other conservation projects. Early observations form the footprint tunnel survey appear to show how the dormice move around the site to find food, particularly berries of rowan, elder and blackberries and this is the sort of information that helps to better manage the woodland for wildlife.
Dormouse footprints and droppings with half-eaten blackberries
I feel personally privileged to have this opportunity and am keen to share the stories of Fingle’s dormice with others, including a group of volunteers that spent several days helping to set the project up and regularly assist with gathering the dormouse activity records across the monitoring area.
This online presentation was a sharing opportunity I’ve been looking forward to for some time and I hope you enjoy it.