I am inclined to go with definitely….and if so, this is a key find at UWNR. In fact, it may rank as the most important result, of the past 4 - 5 years!
Last week Jack and I brought in the wooden inserts, which sit inside the Dormouse survey nest tubes, for winter maintenance. The purpose of the survey tubes is ascertain if we have this rare and important species at UWNR. This is the third season of surveying. And look what we found!
At this stage, we cant be 100% certain that this is a Dormouse nest, but all the signs are positive - the weave is characteristic of Dormouse construction, as are the materials used, the shape and the tell-tale round entrance hole.
Why are Dormouse important - this summary from an ecology journal gives a succinct account: Dormice are one of the UK's most endangered mammals, the hazel or common dormouse, is facing new threats. This species is an important 'bio-indicator', meaning that its presence in a specific habitat shows how healthy that habitat is.
It could be the case that Dormice were always at UWNR - conversely, they may have moved into the habitat over the past few years. PTES survey results indicated their presence nearby, within the last decade. Over the past 4 - 5 years we have worked hard and sensitively to enhance the habitat at UWNR, and just maybe, this find is an indicator that this effort is working for nature.
An exciting update, to this extraordinary find….Gareth (ecologist & UWNR friend) mailed me to remind me that Dormouse nests are odourless. (This enables this small mammal to safely hibernate on the ground over the winter months - no smell = less chance of being predated on!). If the nest had been constructed by say a wood-mouse, it would have a very distinct & pungent smell. I was at UWNR yesterday (26th December 2018), and the first thing I did was to take a decent inhalation of the nest - nothing! Merely the light fragrance of hay, given off by the dry grass and honeysuckle bark. So another piece of the jigsaw falls positively into place!