Friday, 26 February 2010

Houses for dormouses

We spent yesterday morning putting up dormouse boxes in hazel coppice on a corner of wet heathland. Some 15 to 20 years ago a dormouse was found nesting in a bat box there, and since the habitat is good for dormice, we're hoping to find evidence that they are still around.

The hazel coppice stools were wearing their early spring jewellery - dripping with yellow catkins and sprouting tiny dark red flowers along their stems. Undoubtedly, the first herald of spring. For the first time this month, birds were singing constantly in the wood and we heard a buzzard call as it flew overhead.

We spotted bubbles of dark brown jelly fungus growing on a tree and I took a small piece home to identify with the help of my Roger Phillips fungi bible. After doing a spore print overnight and examining it closely again in daylight, I settled on Witches' Butter. What a wonderful name for a fungus covered in tiny warts. Not edible! We also picked up a freshwater mussel shell, possibly dropped by a mink, and I'm hoping to work out the species with a bit of online research.

Woodland is indisputably my favourite habitat - so rich in biodiversity. I hope some dormice find the nest boxes. I wonder what they make of them - a handy wooden box, with an entry hole pointed away from the prevailing winds, tucked into a favourite food tree, and connected to the canopy by trailing honeysuckle.

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