Friday, May 21, 2010

Bedfordshire Wood

I was never keen on Noddy when I was a child - I much preferred The Wooden-tops or Trumpton. But I do remember Big-ears, Noddy's gnome friend who lived in Toadstool House, and I was reminded of him in the early hours of this morning when looking at this wonderful Brown Long-eared Bat that had just been netted - the first of this particular species that I've seen in the hand.

A group of us spent the night seeing what bats were around in a wood that hadn't been surveyed before...and it was pretty successful!

The evening started brilliantly for me when I was making my way on my own along the grass strip between the wood and a field of wheat at dusk. Suddenly, there was a rush of air past my right ear and the largest bat I have ever seen close-to flew around me a few feet off the ground, and then in front of my face again and away - a Serotine, the bat I had really set my heart on encountering this year!!! A Serotine was later reported in the same area by Henry.

We had a number of mist nets set up, and transects were also being walked by small teams. At 9.35pm a female Common Pipistrelle was caught in one of Bob's nets, and then another turned up in one of Chris' nets some distance away a few minutes later, the walkie-talkies crackling to life and passing on the news. Although this individual looked like a Common Pip, there was a question mark over whether the frequency of its calls just before it entered the net indicated that it might, in fact, have been a Soprano Pip. Analysis today should confirm that.

Next, Chris had a female Natterer's Bat soon after 10pm, followed by another female Common Pip in Bob's net.

At 11pm, Bob, Dave & I were seated under some trees when we picked up a Brown Long-eared Bat on the detectors. The strength of the signal - usually very quiet for this species - indicated that it must have been flying just a few feet above our heads. But it was an hour later, just after midnight, when the individual above was captured in Chris' net and gently released. It's a shame she didn't open her eyes for the camera as she was a very handsome beast!

All of the bats caught up to now had been females, so we were pleased to discover a male Common Pip in the neighbouring net immediately after we had released the Brown Long-eared!

It was just before 1am as I made my way back to the car, leaving Bob, Chris & Dave experimenting with the Autobat - a fascinating device that issues synthetically-made signals to lure any bats flying around to the nets. I look forward to hearing if they had any success!

You can view some video footage of the bats from this evening below:

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