Leaders Jacqueline and Paul Hartley

In fine sunny weather eleven members and the leaders, Jacqueline and Paul Hartley, met at the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ Rhos Cefn‐bryn Nature Reserve to learn about Dormice. On waste ground by the entrance track, Richard Pryce noticed the knotgrass Polygonum polycnemiforme, a taxon‐name yet to be published, but probably the most common knotgrass in the county. The party proceeded along the track where the banks were quite species‐rich and supported Creeping‐Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), Wood‐sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) and several fern species such as Hard Fern (Blechnum spicant), Broad Buckler‐fern (Dryopteris dilatata), Scaly Male‐fern (Dryopteris affinis subsp. affinis), Borrer's Male‐fern (Dryopteris affinis subsp. Borreri), Bog Myrtle (Myrica gale) growing in the rank field near the woodland edge.

Photo Richard Pryce

Male‐fern (Dryopteris filix‐mas) and Polypody (Polypodium vulgare). Andrew Stevens showed the party a Long‐tailed Tit’s nest further along in the shady hedgerow.

The group entered the Marsh Fritillary butterfly field, mainly dominated by Purple Moor‐grass (Molinia caerulea). Other species were noted including Devil's‐bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) (the larval food plant of the Marsh Fritillary), Cross‐leaved Heath (Erica tetralix), bog moss (Sphagnum spp.), Deergrass (Trichophorum cespitosum) and Heath Wood‐rush (Luzula multiflora). Two patches of Bog Asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum) were seen, with a few plants of Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica) and Saw‐wort (Serratula tinctoria). Former bog‐pools were choked with a characteristic plant community dominated by Common Cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium) with frequent Bog Asphodel and Sphagnum.

Jacqueline and Paul examining the contents of one of the nest boxes (the polythene bag is used to prevent any animal inhabiting the box from escaping before it has been examined).

Photo Kath Pryce

The next field, occupied by two ponies, was less tightly grazed, resulting in the Molinia being very tussocky with colonising Bramble (Rubus fruticosus) and Grey Willow (Salix cinerea). The fenced woodland margin had the hybrid willow Salix x multinervis growing out of the hedge into the field and a stand of Bog Myrtle (Myrica gale) about 25m x 25m covered an area between the fence and overgrown hedgerow tree‐line. There were also grazed Myrica plants growing nearby in the field. Jacqueline and Paul then showed the party several dormouse nest boxes in the woodland belt where the mature Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur) canopy was associated with Holly (Ilex aquifolium) and Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) in the understorey and Beech (Fagus sylvatica) on the boundary banks. A Wood Mouse escaped from its nest in one nest box but no Dormice were seen although one box did contain a Dormouse nest with typical woven leaves and stems and leaves forming a roof, markedly different to the Wood Mouse nest seen previously. The woodland supports suitable Dormouse habitat including extensive Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), Hazel (Corylus avellana), Bramble, Bilberry and Guelder‐rose (Viburnum opulus) but Jacqueline explained that few Dormice had been seen this season, presumably due to the unfavourable cold, wet weather. The group was then shown Dormouse nestboxes and tubes in the hedgerow which had been enhanced by new native‐species plantings carried out in the past few years by volunteers of the wildlife trust.

Although no Dormice were seen during this meeting everyone agreed that it had been most worthwhile, having been shown suitable Dormouse habitat and the standard survey techniques using nestboxes and tubes.