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Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Serotine Roost

Last night fourteen of us headed over to visit the serotine roost. The house owners warned us that they had only seen one bat the night before, so we were resigned not to see many bats.
Photo Jude Hirstwood
We used two long handled nets ( serotines are well known for liking roofs with a high apex) and the team took it in turns to get aching arms.

Photo Jude HIrstwood
Serotines are sneaky beasts and are very skilled at eluding capture. After we caught the first bat, we had to swap nets and they took this split second opportunity to sneak a couple of bats out. They did this every time and after an hour we had caught six bats but nine had escaped and flew victory circuits round the garden before swooping off along a nearby hedgerow.

This roost has been part of a Ph.D. project ( See 2011-10-serotine ringing) and any bats we caught were ringed and had DNA samples taken.We returned to the roost in order to check whether any of the ringed bats had returned. Three of them had. We also took the opportunity to check the rings had not caused any wing damage. There was no sign of any, nor of any scarring left from the wing punches.
Aidan checking wing length Photo Jude Hirstwood
In all nine bats escaped and we caught six.
They were all female and three of them had been ringed previously. One was ringed as a juvenile last year. All the bats were in fine condition, though we did notice that they were lighter than last year , suggesting that this bad weather has had an effect. We also checked wing length. We could detect no sign of pregnancy in any of the bats. In difficult conditions bats can slow down fetal development and this may be what happened.
A delighted Aidan Photo Jude Hirstwood
For many of those present, this was the first time they had seen serotines in the hand, and as a result there were a lot of very happy faces to be seen

Photo Jude Hirstwood
We also took the opportunity of taking some photos. This was not always easy as some of the bats were very squirmy,  but we did get some good photos eventually

Photo Jude Hirstwood
This bat on the other hand was more media friendly and sat still while her photo was taken.

Photo Jude Hirstwood

Friday, 11 May 2012

Looking for Bechsteins

Photo of Bechstein's bat by Derek Smith, Surrrey Bat Group
The Bat Conservation Trust has been running a project to look for Bechstein’s bat. Our neighbour the North Bucks Bat Group found a number of Bechstein’s when they were part of the project. They have since carried on their research into Bechstein’s.

We don’t get them in Bedfordshire.

Now Lia Gilmour is doing an MSc to see whether the data collected by this project can be used too predict Bechstein distribution.

We will be working with her to see if we can find them in some woods in Bedfordshire. We get a loan of a harp trap and an Autobat so we can follow the protocol devised by The Bat Conservation Trust.

We are lucky that some members of the North Bucks group are going to help us out.
We are hoping to do surveys in June. So keep your fingers crossed that the weather will improve, It is unlikely that we will find Bechstein’s but we may find other interesting species and it is well worth the try.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Bat Box Checks

The second of the box checks were undertaken yesterday.

 We found nothing in March and were not expecting much today as it is still quite early in the season for bats to be using boxes. And we were right. The team checked all fifty boxes and no bats were in – though a number of boxes did have bird’s nests in them, and some had bat droppings. This is not unusual and we hope the bats will move in once the birds have raised their broods. Some bat box projects put up bird boxes as well to leave the bat boxes free for bats. In Wytham Wood in Oxford, the reverse happens and bats move into the bird boxes, When we used to check boxes at Whipsnade they were always occupied by blue tits never by bats