As the world shuts down around us the uplifting role that wildlife plays in our lives becomes more vital than ever. So, for my own sanity as much as anything, I’m going to keep a daily diary of what I find around my garden.
Photograph the wildlife you can see from your window or in your garden and post your pictures on the ‘Sussex Wildlife Trust Nature Table’ page.
In my ongoing battle to keep your spirits up during a global pandemic I have been busy amassing a vast arsenal of British wildlife photos and facts to bombard you with over the coming weeks.
In light of the restrictive but necessary ‘STAY AT HOME’ message from government, I’ve decided to tactically deploy the most powerful weapon I have and blast you with some thermonuclear level cuteness to distract you from these difficult times. People of Britain, prepare for your hearts to be melted by the mighty Dormouse.
The onset of colder weather each autumn signals that the Dormouse diet (flowers, fruit, seeds, insects and nuts) will soon vanish. As the temperature drops they start stocking up. Dormice are the original panic buyers, but instead of filling Tesco trolleys they fill their bellies. During October they can double in weight as they bulk up on food before the winter shutdown arrives.
When they have sufficiently stuffed their cute little faces these rotund rodents descend to a ground-floor dormitory, a tightly woven nest under moss and leaves. Once inside our Dormice become dormant. Heart-rate and breathing reduce by over 90 per cent and body temperature is dropped to just a few degrees above freezing. From now on they won’t need much energy to stay alive and valuable fat reserves are burnt very slowly.
Not many British mammals actually hibernate. Sure, Badgers and squirrels enter a deep sleep for longer periods but they’re not hibernating – they’re merely in ‘stand by’ mode and can reawaken quickly. Full hibernation requires a complete shutdown, pulling the power plug – almost – completely out of the wall. Of our British mammals, just Dormice, Hedgehogs and the Bats hibernate.
The Dormice of Sussex will be waking up soon from their six-month snooze, stretching and yawning. If they saw us, all heroically holed up in our homes for a few weeks, they’d no doubt mutter one word under their breath: ‘Amateurs’.