Dormouse box mounted in mature hawthorn with honeysuckle, Horleyland Wood
Torpid dormouse in a box, photo taken on a survey in nearby Crawley, 2012
As well as achieving pretty incomprehensible levels of cuteness, the hazel dormouse is an elusive wee beastie and the best way to survey for them is to tempt them in with luxury accommodation. Although I hesitate to use the word ‘fussy’ they sort of are... however by the same token they could be deemed good indicators of high quality woodland and levels of biodiversity.
A typical dormouse nest, photo taken at some nearby woodlands in Worth, 2012
They tend to come out of hibernation around April and then start scoping out new accommodation for the breeding season. If their presence is confirmed then a licensed handler will be brought in to assist with weighing and sexing individuals, determining the health of the population.
Dormouse bagged to be weighed and checked over, Crawley 2012
Due to their rapid decline in the past 100 years or so, the hazel dormouse is protected by law. Causes for the population crash are believed to be the loss of ancient woodland, fragmentation of woodlands, loss of hedgerows and unsympathetic woodland management; these issues we are confronting in our Gatwick Biodiveristy Action Plan.
The British Airways Engineering volunteers are a keen bunch with a zeal for helping improve the environment of Gatwick. They are very handy to have around with their technical skills and I will blogging all about their good work in the future.
Many thanks to Adrian Haines, Carl Treynor, Colin Sexton, Glyn Finch and Terry Sparrow of British Airways Engineering