What a lot of nuts!

Wednesday 12th February 2014

Hazel DormouseLast week 7 hardy souls braved the wet and windy weather to look for nuts up on Burrington Ham. Why? You ask, well the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) runs a project called the Great Nut Hunt; where everyday people are encouraged to collect hazel nuts from their local area and find out what has been eating them. The PTES are especially looking for evidence of dormice.

PTES explains “The hazel dormouse is Britain’s only native dormouse species. Hazel dormice were once widespread in the UK but they are now rare and vulnerable to extinction in this country. They are mostly found only in the southern counties of England and Wales.”

We already know there are dormice in one area of Burrington Ham as there has been a monitoring scheme going on for a number of years. What we didn’t know was if the dormice are anywhere else on the Ham.

The day involved carrying out timed searches for hazel nuts in 3 areas of the Ham. All hazel nuts found were collected (except unopened ones) and brought back to the dry office be investigated. You can tell what has eaten the hazel nuts by looking at the way the shells have been cracked open or by the direction of tooth marks around the opening.

The results were fantastic – after sorting through mountains of nuts we counted 104 having been eaten by dormice out of approx. 950 nuts. They were found in all three areas too which is great.

This information will help us to manage the woodlands in a way to give dormice the best chance so watch this space for follow-up tasks to come!

To find out more and to get involved have a look on the People’s Trust for Endangered Species web site.