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A batty first for Ashley Wood!

October 27, 2008

A bunch of volunteers and DWT staff descended on Ashley wood today – in search of bats….

Checking one of the bat boxes

Checking one of the bat boxes

We did find some bats – but what sort? and what else did we find?  Read on to find out!

The aim of the days was to work our way through the many bat boxes at the DWT Ashley Wood Reserve, identifying and counting any bats that we might find.  In addition, it’s a good time to clear out all the old birds nests from this spring.

It’s always surprising to see how resourceful some of the tit species can be – and despite the difficulty they must have in getting through the hole at the bottom of the box and then having to clamber up inside, some of the boxes were almost full to the brim with masses of moss and feathers.

One of the many nests - this one had failed, and had 3 old eggs

One of the many nests - this one had failed, and had 3 old eggs

We got off to a great start, with 10 pipistrelles in only the second box that we checked!  Not wanting to disturb them too much, it was simply a matter of formally identifying them, confirming the count, and then leaving them alone to continue their sleepy ways…  This bunch were soprano pipestrelles, slightly different to common pips in that they don’t have the darker mask, and they have a ‘stubby’ nose.

A soprano pip - trying very hard to look like a common pip!

A soprano pip - trying very hard to look like a common pip!

With the temperatures starting to drop away now, the bats are starting to go into torpor -dropping their body temperature and metabolism so that they don’t burn too much fat.  It won’t be long now before they head off to their winter sites and go into hibernation proper until next spring.  Imagine being able to sleep right through the winter – what a fantastic idea!!!

Having safely put the front back on to the bat box, James had the seemingly simple task of moving the ladder away form the tree and on to the next batch of boxes.  I say ‘seemingly simple’, because James managed to make it look like one of the hardest things ever, on the planet!  Still, he got there in the end and we continued our search for more bats.

A few more boxes with old nests later, our next box turned out to have something a little bit scary inside…  Jane had volunteered to check this box, but decided that it was perhaps a wise move not to do so, with a steady flow of hornets going in and out!  We found 3 boxes in total of hornets, and all were surprisingly active considering the early frost that we had in the morning.

We carried on around the wood, checking boxes as we went.  Several more had soprano pipistrelles and then before we knew it, we were in the final clearing where we had the last 8 boxes to check.  Amanda volunteered to check the first four, and proceeded to prove she can be just as handy with a ladder as James!  Eventually she got it up though, and started checking the boxes. 

The group wait expectantly while Amanda is up the ladder

The group wait expectantly while Amanda is up the ladder

 

 The first 2 had birds nests, the 3rd had a huge hole made by a squirrel and no bats.  The final box though held 8 bats -and they were different!

Amanda clambered down the ladder and we confirmed what she had announced earlier from her lofty site at the top of the ladder – we had found some Brown Long-eared bats.

A brown long-eared bat - a first for the wood!

A brown long-eared bat - a first for the wood!

This was our first – the only bat species to have been previously recorded at the wood were pips, so our discovery of 8 long-eareds was a great find.  It was the perfect end to our morning of box checks – and time for a well earned cup of tea!

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