There are two sites to be surveyed and as we set off in the Land Rover at about 09.30 I felt optimistic and I must admit a bit excited about the day ahead and what we might find.
The last time I went with Greenie on the survey was in June and I think we only found one Dormouse, but now is the nesting season, surely we would do better.
I needn't have worried, after a hesitant start one of the boxes produced our first of four families totalling thirteen youngsters and six adults.
They're sleeping of course when we come knocking rudely at their door and the female and three youngsters above look like they're determined to go back to sleep as they wait in the holding bag for weighing and sexing. All these tasks are performed exclusively by the man himself, he's licensed to handle these highly protected creatures, Terry and I are not, and can only assist with recording and bag holding etc.
They soon wake up though and the 'delight' of Dormice youngsters in the pictures above and below were certainly lively enough. A couple of the other families we found were not so well advanced as these, one set of triplets had their fur but their eyes were still not open, and another trio were tiny, pink and blind, probably only a couple of days old. The last were quads who exploded from the box like a ginger volcano as soon as Greenie lifted their lid.
The reptile survey also brought some pretty good results with four Adders, nine Grass snakes, nineteen Slow Worms and two very young Common Lizards.
The Grass Snake and the slightly scruffy and stumpy Slow Worm above were quite happy to be basking together under a piece of refugia. The Grass Snakes often shoot off at incredible speed when exposed to our gaze but this one stayed a while for pics, it must have learnt that habit from his mate the Slow Worm, who seem to be named quite aptly I think.
The Adder pictured above and below was also a bit lethargic, I think it's an immature male if i'm not mistaken. Judging by it's blue eyes it's getting ready to slough it's skin in the near future. Left click for a better view.
Apart from the Dormice, the top spot for me goes to the superb, large female Adder pictured below. She was basking, despite the lack of any sun, in a tangle of heather, gorse and hawthorn and was well spotted by Greenie as we made our way through bracken to a couple of pieces of refugia. Again, she was quite tolerant of our presence, i'm sure she must have been able to see us with those super amber eyes, or maybe she was too preoccupied with that fly in the bottom left of the shot. She slithered noiselessly away after we'd all taken a couple of pictures. Fantastic.
In keeping with most sites at the moment, the bird life was subdued, but it was good to be accompanied by the mewing of Buzzards, glimpsed occasionally through the leafy canopy. These birds were likely to be the parents and youngsters found nesting in these woods during our last visit in June. Close views of a pair of Treecreepers were also a highlight.
The chance to be able to tag along and take part in the surveys, albeit only in a small way, ranks as one of the best wildlife days of the year for me. Many thanks Greenie, and thanks also to Paul the warden who has made us very welcome both days.