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Deer counting and making a discovery!

October 21, 2008

Day 2 of MADD – what did we get up to?  On the agenda for the day was a deer count in the Purbecks, followed by a bat hibernation project just outside Swanage.  It turned out to be a very exciting day….

It was an early start - I could only just make out the Ranger!

It was an early start - I could only just make out the Ranger!

The Deer count was over in a flash, or so it seemed to me!  It was a rather early start for me as the alarm woke me at 5.30am, and by 6.50am I had made my way down the narrow roads around Wareham, and trundled the Ranger along the track to Middlebere Farm – my allocated site for the Purbeck deer count.  As soon as I opened the door, the dawn was broken by the errie sound of the Sika rut.  It’s hard to describe, but I suppose you could call it a sort of a scream, although I always think it sounds just like a squeaking gate.  Before long I was joined by my fellow deer counters (Mandy and Phil) and off we went – counting Sika and Roe as we went.  I didn’t get any pics of the deer -but we did manage to find quite a good number of both species, and it was all topped off by a female Hen Harrier flying around the reedbed as we neared the end of the route.

Next, it was on to the bat project. Leeson House is now a residential site for schools, offering environmental education in the surrounding area.  During the war however, it was a radar research site, and as such was a prime target for a bombing raid.  It’s no surprise then, to learn that they have a bomb shelter in the grounds. 

The entrance to the bunker

The entrance to the bunker

 

The great news for us, is that we had been granted permission to turn the shelter into a bat des res!!The shelter was stacked with a huge wall of rock and rubble when it was no longer needed after the war, and has remained untouched since then.  I had been to visit the site previously in my role as a bat warden, and we had realised that behind the wall of rock was a void – what we didn’t know was just how far the void would go back, or what we would find there……

The wall of rocks that we were tackling...

The wall of rocks that we were tackling...

A couple of hours spent clearing the debris, saw Anthony, Faye and I manage to get through to the main tunnel into the shelter – to be met by another wall of rock some 10 metres in.  We were happy though, as the passageway was obviously meeting the right conditions for a cave, as there were cave spiders everywhere, plus quite a few Herald moths that were probably intending to see out the winter in there.  

Plenty of cave spiders - and their egg cocoons!

Plenty of cave spiders - and their egg cocoons!

We could see that beyond  the rock wall there was a quite large area, but it all seemed to be packed out completely with rocks.  I decided that it would be a good idea to remove at least a small section to one side, to allow any bats to be able to get out of the main passage and into a more sheltered spot.  After about 45 mins of slowly removing rocks, all of a sudden I was able to see another void ahead of me!  Sure enough as we removed more and more rocks and then  started to push others into the void, it all opened up for us into an area of about 4m x 5m – the perfect bat hibernation site!!!

The discovery - a perfect bat hibernacula!

The discovery - a perfect bat hibernacula!

It was amazing to think that no-one had been here since it was closed off 60 or so years ago.  I had visions of finding some old papers or maybe a desk, but it was totally clear.  After a few more alterations to ensure that all was perfect for the bats to discover and hopefully use in the future, we locked the special bat door at the front, complete with gap for them to fly through, and left.  It was another success – onwards to Brownsea tomorrow for another challenge!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2008 10:39 pm

    Well done with the deer count, and brilliant news about the “bat cave” …. Batman move over… Must have been hard work moving all that stone. Can’t wait to see the pics. Very envious that you are spending time at Brownsea… have a great time. Jane

  2. October 27, 2008 11:25 pm

    It was very hard work – fortunately we were well lokked after with plenty of hot tea, and even some doughnuts!

  3. October 27, 2008 11:27 pm

    It was very hard work – fortunately we were well lokked after with plenty of hot tea, and even some doughnuts!

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