Thanks to a successful application for a grant from Mid-Devon District Council, we have now obtained £500 to put up the first 50 nest boxes.
We found a local person who has made the boxes for us to our specification. The boxes were put up in September 2004. This means that they were well established in time for the 2005 breeding season.
To date we do not think that the boxes have been used by dormice, we hope to monitor them properly in 2006.
One of the visitors to the badger watch has very kindly offered to help us with the project. He is able to help with siting and monitoring boxes, as well as training and supervising Anne to become licensed to monitor boxes herself. This will be a great help
Two of the principal problems our native wildlife face are lack of habitat, in terms of availability of food and lack of suitable nest sites.
For example, most of the mature trees in the woods surrounding our farm were taken out for timber during the Second World War. There is therefore a lack of suitable nesting sites for hole nesting birds such as owls.
When we put a Tawny owl nest box into our wood, it only took four days before a pair of owls moved in! Guests can watch their antics via video camera down in the hide during an evening visit.
A large part of the wood in which the badgers sett is found is old hazel coppice, the favoured haunt of the increasingly rare dormouse. Coppicing is the practice of cutting a tree back to almost ground level every 10 to 15 years. This encourages vigorous regrowth.
With hazel the branches, or spars as they are known, can then be used for making hurdles or furniture. A Coppice is an area which has been treated in this way.
We know from collecting discarded hazelnuts shells and checking the shape of and marks around the entry hole, that we already have dormice in the wood. (See left)
To improve the habitat for the dormice (as well as for other wildlife) and their chances of breeding successfully, we are carrying out the following programme of work;
Firstly, in order to ensure a good, continuous, supply of food, the old woodland needs to be actively managed. We are coppicing a section of the wood every winter, so that an interlinked patchwork quilt of growth of differing ages is created.
We need to put specifically designed dormouse nest boxes into the wood to ensure that there are adequate suitable nesting sites. Experts recommend that nest boxes are spread across the wood in groups of 50, randomly scattered over a small area. At best, only perhaps two of each group of 50 would be used in any one year. The belief however is that, with a group of 50, there is the maximum likelihood that a wandering dormouse would find one of them. This project has involved considerable cost.
Progress reports and results will be posted on this page.