Does the cold weather ever make you feel like hibernating until spring? Well that's what dormice do. If they haven't already, they'll soon be creating ground level nests to wait out the colder, leaner months.
They need to weigh at least 15g to survive the winter and any warm spells could wake them up prematurely which is a risky business as they may waste vital energy on a fruitless mid-winter foraging expedition. So long as it stays cold they'll remain asleep until spring when they emerge to begin breeding.
As a rare species that's vulnerable to extinction, every new addition to the population is important. Writtle University College (WUC) lecturer, Debbie Emmerson, helps to monitor and record a local population of dormice in Danbury as part of the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme.
Nest boxes are checked (by license holders, this species is protected by law) and any dormice found are weighed and sexed before being returned to their nest. Other inhabitants and empty dormouse nests are also recorded to identify preferred nesting sites and nest box competition.
Debbie says: "These monthly surveys will now take a break until the dormice wake up again next year so we wish these tiny rodents a merry, sleepy Christmas and a reproductively successful New Year!"