Use of Bird Feeder by Dormice

By John Hodson

At Worcestershire Wildlife Trust headquarters we often get unusual phone calls, so when in late summer this year we received a call from a lady reporting dormice visiting peanut feeders put out for birds in her garden we were, to say the least, a little sceptical. Yellow-necked mice we all cried, (I said "rats"! Ed). This was a mistake.

Just before Christmas we received a letter from the same lady and with it came a collection of photographs. Suffice to say, they were of dormice, and one particular shot had two animals on the same feeder.

Our correspondent lives in Malvern Wells on the western side of Holywell Road and her garden backs onto the woodland that covers the lower slopes. An overgrown mixed hedgerow connects her garden with the woodland and so provides an arboreal route to her bird feeders. The animals were first noticed in early June this year and were seen on most nights until some time in August. They often appeared as early as 18.00hrs and remained until darkness fell.

In a nearby laurel bush, she found what appeared to be a dormouse nest: it was small, circular and contained pieces of honeysuckle bark. It is therefore possible the animals had set up territory within the garden to be close to a reliable food source. In most years mid-summer can be a lean time for dormice as most flowering has ended and fruiting has yet to begin. This, coupled with evidence that in some areas this year hazelnut production was particularly poor, may have prompted this behaviour.

For anyone lucky enough to have a garden adjoining woodland, either directly or via an overgrown hedgerow this would appear to be a useful method for both helping dormice survive and for increasing our small number of recent Dormouse records. If anyone has dormouse records for Worcestershire (new or old) I should be very pleased to hear from you - please phone the Trust office 01905 754919

It is worth pointing out that we have no recent records east of the River Severn.

Our correspondent wishes to remain anonymous.

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