Went out with a group from Cheshire Wildlife today to check dormouse boxes. The procedure goes like this: stuff a clean hanky or cloth into the entrance hole, then gently open the lid a fraction and peep in. (We found lots of birds on nests and also a bank vole: in previous years there've also been bats and wood mice.)
If there's a dormouse, the wildlife people take the box off the tree and put it into a large clear plastic sack, so they can get the dormouse out without it escaping. They pop it into a little cloth bag and weigh it, then pass a scanner over the animal to see whether it carries a microchip. If it does, they return it to the box (probably while it's still asleep at this time of year).
If it doesn't, they take it to the vet who's out with them and he anaesthetises the dormouse, quickly chips it, weighs and measures it, sexes it, gauges its general health and takes a swift DNA sample. The whole procedure takes less than ten minutes, and the anaesthetic's so light that the mouse is coming round towards the end. Then it's returned to the same box it came from.
This colony's been monitored for ten years now, and though the results today were on the low side, the boxes will be checked again in the summer and numbers may well have gone up.
Came home to find this sparrowhawk on my lawn. Plus my neighbour tells me we have swifts nesting in our roof, and last night I saw two bats flying round the garden. The pond's full of common newts, too.