Thursday, May 6, 2010

Buff Wood, Cambridgeshire

It's just after 1am, and I'm going to hit the sack in a few minutes and dream of bats....

This evening I joined Bob, Jude & Henry at Buff Wood, several hundred metres inside the wilds of Cambridgeshire. Buff Wood is a private boulder-clay wood, managed by the Wildlife Trust, who advertise it as, 'A tranquil, sheltered ancient woodland with a spectacular array of spring flowers.' The photo above was taken about a year ago by 'Bogbumper'. Access is only permissable by permit, so we were very fortunate to be able to spend several hours undertaking a Bat survey.

After reconnoitering the woodland rides and noting plants such as Primrose, Oxlip and Herb Paris, we set up two mist nets some 120m or so apart, with Henry taking primary responsibility for 'Net 1' and Jude keeping an eye on 'Net 2', whilst Bob & I wandered between the two. The handy log pile 'seat' in the photo above just happened to be alongside Net 2, which was very useful! As dusk fell there was a chatter of activity on the bat detectors and it wasn't long before Henry's voice crackled over the intercom just after 9pm: "I've got one!" It was a Common Pipistrelle, a male. The Bat was gently and skillfully removed from the net before being released and launching itself into the darkness once more.

This was followed, soon after, by another Common Pipistrelle in Net 2, a female this time (it's not hard to tell the difference in bats!). Soon after 10pm, Bob shone the torch into the net to discover a larger bat, a male Natterer's Bat. I saw a number of these during the Hibernation Survey earlier in the year - and that was exciting enough - but nothing beats seeing them active and in the hand before flying away!

Soon after, another female Common Pip was found in Net 1, followed by a male in Net 2. This one took some untangling, but was obviously of a patient disposition, allowing Bob to gradually release him. He flew off into the darkness but, before we could catch our breath, we turned to find another female in the net, the smallest individual of the night.

5 Common Pipistrelles and a Natterer's Bat...not bad compensation for missing Man City's vital game against Spurs this evening! And the hoots of the Tawny Owls, the barking of the Muntjac, and the squealing of the Foxes just added to the wonderful atmosphere deep in the wood.

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