Friday, 11 July 2014

Common Dormouse

Common Dormouse, Muscardinus avellanarius

The Common Dormouse, also known as the Hazel Dormouse, is on of our most asked about animals in terms of photography. Unfortunately though we can not offer them as part of our itinerary on our photo days. Our breeding ones, in our outside enclosures, we leave well alone so as not to disturb them while they are hopefully breeding and rearing young... and so of course this means we don't wish to wake them during the day just to be photographed. This leaves our educational dormice, but they live in our nocturnal house. Although they are awake during the day, it is dark in their enclosure and we feel it is unfair on them to bring them out in to daylight for half hour or so and then put them back in the dark again.

All this means that I have rarely been able to photograph them myself, and usually when I do it is of one curled up in a ball while sleeping/hibernating if we are moving or checking up on them. A couple of weeks ago though, as we were changing the hazel in their enclosures, one of them was up and about and so I made the most of it and spent twenty minutes photographing her before putting her back in her pen with some nice new fresh hazel!


Considering time was limited, the area we did it was not ideal and the conditions and light were far from perfect, I am really pleased with the photos I managed to get.

This one above of her peeking through the leaves I possibly my favourite of the shoot.

The Set

You can see from this photo where we were. Literally in the double door bit of the breeding pens. Very tight, not much room, but we had to stay somewhere completely safe in case she decided to jump from the hazel.

She was good as gold though, and was happy to explore a bit and sit and pose. A nice steady hand from Lucy obviously helped.

Common Dormouse

The biggest obstacles, apart from it being so dark, was the backgrounds. It was very tricky to avoid showing the wire mesh.

Common Dormouse

Or the wooden support beams of the individual beams. Still, I think they are blurred enough to get away with... especially for use at work.

Stay True

Then when I did manage to avoid these, of course she sat behind a small sprig on the branch while looking straight at me. Beautiful pose... oh well.

Common Dormouse Portrait

I managed to get a few varied shots with the limited time.

The Feet of a Dormouse

This one was taken to show off her feet and does so well and the adaptations of their toes in particular.

Beautiful Whiskers

And this one is another of my favourites, showing off their whiskers which are truly incredible!

In the Light

Eventually the sun moved round in the sky enough to fall on half of the double door bit. I like this one above, but to be honest preferred the ones in the shadows. She was also getting a little tired and so it was time to put her back.

Me with Dorris - taken by Meg Buckland

She was very relaxed throughout though, and spent a bit of time on my back. Meg was on hand to take some snaps.

Disappearing Down the Pocket - taken by Meg Buckland

At one stage even decided to take a breather and hide out in my shirt pocket!

Hiding Out - taken by Meg Buckland

Seemed quite comfortable there, but Lucy had finished redecorating her home so it was time for her to go back.

Edible Dormouse, Glis glis

We do have another dormouse in this country, the Edible Dormouse or Glis as they are often known. Edible dormice have been introduced to the UK, and are now spreading and causing  a lot of trouble. They are so different to our British common dormice in both looks and behaviour.

Edible dormice can be quite aggressive, noisy and bite hard. They cause a lot of disturbance where you find them and are considered a pest. The common dormouse on the other hand is quiet, very rarely bites, docile in nature and no trouble at all.

Our British Dormouse, the Common (Hazel) Dormouse

In terms of looks, the edible dormouse is considerably bigger as you can see from the two photos above, and grey in colour. The common dormouse is much smaller and a glorious golden colour.

Incidentally, fuchsia background in this photo and the one on the BWC blog was simply done by hanging a towel of that colour up behind the dormouse while photographing them. The dormouse above only has half a tail, and is one of our educational dormice now found in our nocturnal house... These are old photos.

Pre Hibernation

And I love this photo, the angle makes it appear much bigger than he really is, but this is right before hibernation when he would have been at his heaviest and fattest... plus I believe she is in one of Katie's little hands :-)

Thanks for looking

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