Sunday 31 May 2015

June 2015 Mammal of the Month - The Grey Squirrel

Photo Credit - Becky Thomas

Somehow we’ve reached June already so it’s time for a new mammal of the month for you all to spot in the long evenings. This month it’s the grey squirrel. Not everyone's favourite squirrel in the UK but in suburban and urban areas probably the wild mammal that you'll most often see.

Our top five grey squirrel facts are:
  1. They originally come from the USA and were introduced into the UK over many years from the 1870s through to the late 1920s.
  2. Their tails can be as long as the rest of their bodies (tails up to 24 cm, body length 24-28.5 cm)
  3. Their nests are called dreys and they often use twigs that they cut straight from the tree with leaves still on (birds use dead twigs).
  4. Females can have two litters a year, in spring and again in the summer, with 3 or 4 young in each litter.
  5. As they are not a native species and are often considered a pest it is illegal to release one back into the wild in the UK without a special exemption certificate (some wildlife rehabilitation centres have these).

 Find out more with the national Mammal Society’s fact sheet for the species 
Photo Credit - Damian Carter

Please record all of your grey squirrel sightings for us at our recording page – we have surprisingly few squirrel records considering how many are around. Don’t forget that we also welcome records of all wild mammals all year round so please don’t restrict yourselves to the Mammal of the Month!

Wednesday 20 May 2015

The not-so-common dormouse

Illustration: Clara Prieto

This month’s Mammal of the Month is the hazel (or common) dormouse which is no surprise as
May is usually when surveys start for this species as they are now out and about after 5 months
in hibernation. The dormouse however is not so common, even if the name suggests otherwise,
in the UK (or in fact Europe) and has been afforded European Protected Species status which
means it is illegal to intentionally or recklessly disturb a dormouse or destroy its resting place
amongst other clauses (see Natural England website for its full legal protection information).

Under a NE licence dormouse boxes can be opened and checked and although everyone hopes
dormice will be resident, it is not always the case... these lovely dry, draught-proof (to a degree)
wooden boxes can become homes for a myriad of species; from bees to yellow-neck mice. It
does make a surveyor a little nervous when approaching a box; "Will it be a small mammal or a
box that buzzes?"

The Berkshire Mammal Group have four dormouse box sites around West Berkshire and we
have organised 16 dormouse box checks this year (4 per wood), two of which were carried out
this weekend (17/5/15) in Ashampstead Common and Moor Copse. Both are extremely
enchanting woods this time of the year with Bluebells abundant, and Dog’s Mercury about to
flower, however the Common Nettle is willing and able to sting at the slightest touch. Alas we
have yet to find a torpid dormouse curled up within its nest, but fingers and toes are crossed that
the not-so-common dormouse will appear!

In the meantime we have had pygmy shrews, wood mice, yellow-neck mice, bees (!) and blue tit
chicks ‘a’plenty resident in the boxes.. so at least some species are making good use of these
artificial nest sites.

If you want to find out more about dormice, and maybe don’t want to experience the box buzzing
scenario, we have been working with a very talented graphic designer who has produced a
dormouse infographic for us, it is extremely informative, well illustrated and deserves to be read
and shared.  It is also available as a PDF available here.

If you want more information about dormice or maybe want to get involved please contact us!

Amanda Lloyd

Dormouse Officer BMG

Friday 1 May 2015

May 2015 Mammal of the Month - The Hazel Dormouse

Hazel Dormouse - Photo credit: Becky Thomas

Happy May Day!

We’re pleased to announce that our Mammal of the Month for May is the hazel dormouse. They are just coming out of hibernation at this time of year so it is the perfect time to welcome the species as our Mammal of the Month.

Our top five dormice facts are:

  1. As well as hibernating over the winter, dormice can also go into a state called torpor in poor weather to save energy. Their body temperature becomes lower and they appear to be in a deep sleep
  2. Dormice rarely come to the ground, instead using tree and shrub branches to move around
  3. Females usually have one litter of about four young and the young stay with their mother for up to 8 weeks.
  4. In the UK, dormice are mostly found in southern England with some in Wales. It is rare to find populations north of the Midlands.
  5. There are surprisingly few dormouse records for Berkshire but we are hoping that our nest box sites may provide more during this year’s checks.

Find out lots more about dormice via the Mammal Society's webpage for the species where you can also download a species factsheet

Dormouse records are hard to come by but do let us know if you spot any when you're out and about and please record sightings or signs of any mammal here