Meet Julie Mottishaw: dormouse monitor
In this series, we chat to the dedicated staff members, conservation partners and volunteers at PTES. We find out why each of them chose a career in wildlife conservation, what they find rewarding about their work and what they love most about what they do.
Dormouse monitor at Chilworth and Wildwood, Surrey
How long have you been monitoring for?
I started helping Dave Williams when he was working for Surrey Wildlife Trust in 2007. Two years later I gained my licence and it was also in 2009 that Dave and I established the Surrey Dormouse Group and a training scheme for those working towards their licence. Both have evolved over time but are still going strong.
Tell us about the site you monitor
I monitor Chilworth and Wildwood. The site at Chilworth has been monitored since 2009, and Wildwood since 2010. Chilworth’s a very interesting site as it’s around the remains of the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills: boxes sit around deep excavations in which the gunpowder was stored. Unfortunately, after several years of recording relatively good numbers of dormice, we haven’t seen one since 2015. It’s quite an isolated woodland so the chances of a new population moving in are slim. By contrast Wildwood is part of a very large woodland which gives the owners, Guildford Borough Council, opportunities for carrying out larger scale habitat management, which they do with our input. There are some wonderful examples of very old yew trees in the wood.
What’s the most memorable day you’ve had looking for dormice?
The most memorable day I had on a box check was when we found baby pygmy shrews in a dormouse box! We hadn’t found any dormice for a while, so it was exciting to find a box full to the brim with bits of moss and leaves. We discovered the babies as we carefully took the bedding out in the large bag. Worried about disturbing them we quickly returned all the bedding and put the box back on the tree. As we stepped back two adult pygmy shrews started a non-stop relay, up and down the tree to the box, presumably with food. We watched fascinated for a while and were pleased that all the babies had left the box the following month.
Tell us something about you we wouldn’t expect from a dormouse monitor
I started my career in 1970 as a computer programmer, developing the very first PC system for the airline I worked for, and later helped to manage the introduction of the first self-service kiosks.
Find out more about hazel dormice and how you can help here:
Lead image by Stephen-Bardwell. Profile photo by Julie Mottishaw.