Meet Tammy Stretton: 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 in Powys
Tell us about yourself and the site you monitor
I’m a passionate conservationist and naturalist who’s lucky enough to have worked for Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust for almost twenty years.
One of the most pleasurable parts of my job is monitoring dormice on four of our nature reserves: Coed Pendugwm, Cwm-Wydden, Dolforwyn Woods and Dyfnant Meadows, all of which are ancient woodland.
How long have you been monitoring for?
For eleven years. In 2012 we managed to secure funding to put up 350 nest boxes and I’ve been leading a small team of volunteers ever since.
What’s the most memorable day you’ve had looking for dormice?
That’s a tough one, as there are so many special days to choose from. We’ve found all sorts of interesting animals in the boxes over the years, even a common toad. One day, at Coed Pendugwm, a weasel jumped out of the box and started whizzing round the bag like a whirling dervish!
But this is about dormice, so I’ll tell you about the day that one of my trainees was ready to ‘graduate’. He opened the lid of a nest box and dormice exploded everywhere; one ran up his arm, settling on the side of his face, another made itself comfortable on his shoulder. He remained serene, standing completely still, whilst another volunteer and I attempted to catch the dormice. Amazingly, we only lost one, which ran up into the canopy.
Describe your woodland and why it’s special to you
They are all special in different ways. Coed Pendugwm is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and has a special place in my heart because I used to be the volunteer warden. I enjoyed the changing seasons; particularly the bluebells at springtime. Cwm-y-Wydden is steep and difficult to navigate, but I always feel privileged to be there, as it is closed to the public. Dolforwyn Woods is our most accessible dormouse site, as well as being the most consistent in terms of dormouse numbers, so I’ve been able to show many people dormice there over the years. Watching people’s reaction to seeing a dormouse for the first time never gets old. Dyfnant Meadows is in the heart of the Dyfnant Forest and emanates a very special kind of peace and tranquillity; any stress falls away, no matter how challenging the survey.
What are the challenges at the site?
You need a reasonable level of fitness to visit my sites. Cwm-y-Wydden is particularly difficult to walk to and round (hence why it’s closed to the public); I’m still not sure how we got 100 boxes there in the first place. We’ve had many instances of trees falling down and onto dormouse boxes, sometimes destroying them. We’re fortunate that public interference isn’t much of a problem, but we do occasionally find boxes without their lids and tampering from other wildlife – such as squirrels or woodpeckers – can be a problem!
Tell us something about you we wouldn’t expect from a dormouse monitor
I can drive a JCB and a steam engine, and sometimes sign-write in my spare time!
Can you help us reintroduce more dormice to the wild?
Header image credit Tammy Stretton