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