Bats on Brownsea

This week I went on a “bat training” workshop organised by Steve Davis at Dorset Wildlife Trust (thanks Steve!). It was held on the idyllic island of Brownsea (in the middle of Poole Harbour). But it’s not just bats that you can see at Brownsea…

A Natterer’s Bat

Lizards, red squirrels, deer, birds, bats and wild flowers all share this island with about thirty human residents. It’s now owned by the National Trust (NT) and is just a short passenger-ferry ride away from the hustle and bustle of Poole and Sandbanks in Dorset, but to be honest it feels like you could be a hundred miles away from civilisation.

Common Lizard at Brownsea

Our group stayed overnight at The Villa, an old house that has recently been renovated by Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) as a Visitor and Wildlife Centre. DWT lease a wildlife reserve on the island from the NT, and have two full time members of staff living on Brownsea year round.

Steve checking the first of the boxes

Back to the bats! The morning was spent on theory-stuff but after lunch we set off to check boxes. There are about 50 bat boxes on the island, the first few we checked were empty but we soon found some with occupants.

He’s so furry you can’t see his eyes! A Common Pipistrelle

The first couple that we found were from the Pipistrelle family, a Soprano Pipistrelle and a Common Pipistrelle (above).

As you can see they are very small. Much, much smaller than I had imagined – no more than the size of a very small mouse. Their wings are like rice-paper and you can literally see right through them if you hold them up to the light.

A Pipistrelle’s Wing

The Law on disturbing and handling bats is very tight in the UK. In order to check bat boxes (that you know have been used by bats in the past) you must have a licence from Natural England. I’m hoping that after a few of these training sessions I will get my own licence and be able to put up and check bat boxes around Corfe Mullen.

The next bat was a Natterer’s Bat. A bit larger, with longer ears and grey brown fur.

A Natterer’s Bat

This one looks like he’s having a “Natter” but I can assure you he has very sharp teeth, and as he’s about the size of a hamster he can give you a nip if you aren’t careful (hence the gloves).

In the evening, after a BBQ and plenty of liquid refreshment, we went out armed with the bat detectors to listen to the bats. The island has a colony of Pipistrelle bats in one of it’s old farm buildings, so this was a good place to stand and watch a couple of hundred bats emerging into the dusk, as the detectors picked up their hypnotic clicks, squeaks and whirrs.

Marsh Orchid

In the morning I just had time to photograph the Marsh Orchids in the field opposite The Villa before we boarded the ferry home.


23 thoughts on “Bats on Brownsea

  1. How wonderful, what a great thing to spend the weekend doing, and so interesting. Fab photos of them and other things – too.
    Good luck with the license. Then when you come to see our ponds you can check our bat boxes too!

  2. Don’t worry Paula… I haven’t forgotten your ponds. Didn’t realise you had bat boxes as well. Now I really will need to get my license and work out how to use a detector! Jane

  3. Hi Jane,

    Brilliant posting, don’t think I’ve ever seen a posting about a bat survey. Wonderful stuff, and grwat to get the work of the DWT in the public forum. I’m guessing too you stayed there overnight too wonderful. Good luck with the licence, and if you’re ever Stalbridge way and want to bring a detector with you, I’d love to know what’s actually flying over the garden, look like Pips but may not be.

  4. Thanks Border Reiver. No, I don’t think I’ve seen a post on this before… all the more reason for me to do it! Yes, we stayed overnight, it was gorgeous. I will keep you posted about the detector! Thanks for your great comments. Jane

  5. Hi Jane,
    Your enthusiasm for every wildlife activity you get involved in is so infectious. I hope so much that all who log on will tell their friends about what you are doing.
    The pictures of the bats are amazing so good to see live close up pictures to show how special these little mammals are. Well done and thank you so much for all you are doing for Dorset’s wildlife.
    Like others, may I join the queue for confirmation of what my bats in the loft are – Pips and Long Eared but which?

  6. Hilly. Thank you so much for your kind comment. It’s funny I am enthusiastic about it all, mainly because I just love it. It’s like being a kid and discovering things all over again. I’m going to check out the bats in my garden tonight with the detector (borrowed from Steve at DWT), so once I’ve mastered it I will try and come over! Jane

  7. Thanks Kate. I saw some great water voles in France a few weeks ago, haven’t seen any in the UK this year though! Yes the bats were great. We are now one all… you with your dormice and me with my bats!

  8. Congratulations sis on a great posting! Glad you enjoyed your time on Brownsea and brilliant pics as always. I can see you ending up changing your career path before too long – watch out DWT. Do they know what they have unleashed? Keep it up!

  9. Hi Sis. Yes, had a great time. I’ve just been sat out in the rain listening to bats on a “borrowed” detector. What have I learnt? bats are sensible, they don’t come out in the rain! Thanks for your encouragement. Jane x

  10. Hi Jane, I really must echo everything that has been said on here about your contribution to Dorset’s wildlife, particularly Hilly’s comments. Good to see you used one of the better pics of me – primarily because I happen to be facing away from the camera! Great stuff, totally inspiring, well done on a fantastic wildlife website – the NatureWatch one is pretty good as well!!

  11. Thanks Steve. God, now I’m getting embarrassed (yer right!). I’m really glad you like it. I started it just as a diary for myself, but it’s great that so many other people find it interesting. Thanks again. Jane

  12. Wonderful post Jane! Hey, of course bats are too sensible to go out in the rain – only idiot humans do that 🙂 Bats are probably addictive. So small yet so full of life. All the best with your licence.

  13. Thanks Dragonstar. I can’t believe how many people have found this post interesting. Bats get bad press usually, very misunderstood little creatures, so it’s nice to show them in a good light for a change. Lets face it, they do a very good job of hoovering up insects in the garden (and beyond) I guess it’s just their association with vampires and the dark that freaks people out. Jane

  14. Wonderful! I take it you must not have a big rabies virus problem in the UK.
    Here, the general health rules are avoid bat contact completely. We still build bat houses and like bats, we just have to keep our distance.

  15. Wow nice stuff.

    FC – the only case of someone dying from rabies in recent years here in the UK was someone who handled bats – it is assumed the bat flew over from mainland Europe, having caught the virus there

  16. Hi FC. Good question. As Neil says there has only been one case of a bat handler dying of bat rabies in Scotland in 2000, since 1986 6000 bats have been tested by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and only “six infections with EBLV 2 have been confirmed”. On our training course we talked a lot about this. The general consensus seems to be to make sure you have your Rabies Vaccine regularly if you are licenses to handle bats, and make sure you wear gloves, especially when handling the larger bats that can pierce the skin when biting, and watch out for sick bats or ones acting strangely (if you are licensed to check bat boxes). Just use your common sense really, and don’t freak out about it. I take it that the USA has a big problem with this, which is a real shame. Jane

  17. Hi Neil. Thanks for your comment. It was a great experience. I’m going on a bat count on Thursday night (to a Pipistrelle roost where there are expected to be over 300 bats). Can’t wait!

  18. Hi Jane, What a fabulous thing to do. I bet you found out lots of interesting facts. I have just read the comment above. The bat count sounds interesting too.
    Sara from farmingfriends

  19. Hi Doug. Yep, given up snooker and working for Dorset Wildlife Trust. They used to think that there were just Common Pipistrelles until a few years ago when they realised that some of the bats that they were picking up on bat detectors were at a slightly higher frequency – hence soprano. Jane

  20. Pingback: Autumnwatch 2008 : Brownsea Island, Dorset - Wildlife and Environment Forums

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