The Sopranos & Long Eareds of Ashley Wood

It sounds like we have a gangster mob living in Ashley Wood and looking at this little chap below he does have some mobster similarities – or is it just me that thinks that? (big nose, swept back hair (OK, ears), staring eyes). At the end of October Steve Davis at Dorset Wildlife Trust invited me along to look for Mafioso… sorry bats.

Brown Long Eared Bat

Ashley Wood is one of Dorset Wildlife Trust’s woodland reserves. In Spring it’s covered in a blanket of bluebells and to be honest that’s the only time I’ve ever walked around it before, following the paths left by deer and badgers through the newly leafed trees and bluebells. It was totally enchanting then but today it was touched by the colours (and temperature!) of Autumn.

Ashley Wood

We met at the reserve entrance, Dorset Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers all ready with ladders, gloves and recording sheets. The Trust have about 40 bat boxes positioned around the reserve and the “box check” in Autumn is a good time to clean the boxes out and count any bats before they go into their winter torpor (sleep).

Old Birds Nest

Old bird nest (with long forgotten eggs) found in one of the boxes

We were lucky. It was a bright sunny day and everyone was in a jokey mood as we wandered from tree to tree. We took it in turns to climb the ladder and check the boxes. Mine was empty although the one before this was full of hornets (I saw the tell tale stream of wasps coming from the box so refused to go up and check it!).

Me up a ladder!

Me up a ladder!

However we did find 10 bats in only our second box. These turned out to be Soprano Pipistrelle. There are three species of Pipistrelle found in the UK.  Soprano, Common and Nathusius’. Common are the most common (no really!), then Soprano (found more and more often nowadays), then Nathusius’ (which are really, really incredibly rare but have been found in Dorset).

Soprano Pipistrelle

One of the Soprano Pipistrelle

The Common and Soprano Pips are very similar but we think this little one was a Soprano because of it’s lack of dark face mask, chocolately colouring, stubby nose and machine gun hidden at the back of the box.

Soprano Pipistrelle

Paper thin wings and so, so tiny

These bats are so tiny. We checked this ones wings for tears. They look like they will tear like tissue paper they are so thin but they are actually amazingly robust and if they do tear them they heal very quickly.

Brown Long Eared Bat

I hope Steve at DWT doesn’t mind me nicking one of his photos of the
Brown Long Eared Bats… wish I’d seen them

I had to leave early to get to an appointment and as soon as I’d gone (typical) they found 8 brown long-eared bats in one of the last boxes. This is a first for Ashley Wood as they have only ever recorded Pipistrelles before.

Bat Boxes

Boxes up a tree – they’re a long way up…

You have to be licensed to handle bats in the UK (or be with a licensed handler), and I’m hoping that I will soon get permission to be able to check bat boxes around Corfe Mullen (just checking no touching!). I’ve just bought 15 boxes that I’d like to put up around the village. Anyone got a ladder???

Ashley Wood

Walking back to the car through the Autumn wood

16 thoughts on “The Sopranos & Long Eareds of Ashley Wood

  1. great stuff. I was only aware of 2 species of Pipistrelle in the UK. We did a bat walk on halloween this year as part of the event that evening, but I think it was too cold this year. Apparently there were loads the week before and that time last year. Just my luck! Enjoy Florida

  2. Fab photos Jane. Interestingly Olly says there’s a long eared bat that flies around him and dive bombs him late every evening outside the kitchen window. Any of your bat people heard of bats recognising a particular human?

  3. Hi Paula. Lucky you… wish I had them flying round my house! I’m not sure about them recognising humans, but they are quite clever little creatures. What has Olly done to upset them?? 🙂

  4. Doug. I know. I think they are gorgeous I’m hoping to convert our village by putting on bat-nights next Spring/Summer (but then I think wasps are gorgeous…). Not back yet… soon. Not looking forward to the cold. Jane

  5. What amazing photos of the bats. When we had abat fly up and dowmstairs a while ago and then into the bathroom I missed getting a photo as I had my nose pinned to the bathroom floor with fright as the bat flew about!
    I would love to go on a bat walk or even have an expert come to the farm and tell me about the bats that fly around the farmyard.
    Kind regards
    Sara from farmingfriends

  6. Hi Jane, are you all fired up for your BBC- EOE interview?
    If you go, all the very best of luck. This old codger has his on Friday
    Ron C

  7. Hi Ron C. Although I did get an interview (also Friday) I’ve decided to give it a miss. I thought long and hard and don’t feel I can really give it my “all” at the moment. Hey, maybe next time! but good luck with your interview. Jane

  8. Hi Sara. In the house! Bats, in the house! you lucky, lucky thing… I expect you have loads of bats. Why not contact your local Wildlife Trust or County Bat Group, I’m sure they would love to come and do a survey of your bats! I would if I was nearer… Jane

  9. So amazing! We have our little brown bats that flitter and dive around the airspace over our house.We love seeing them each spring, and miss them in the winter. Nothing as exotic as the long eared version..I have to admit I think their cute.

  10. Hi Heidi. I’m with you… I think they are cute too! We have a couple of little brown pipistrelles in the garden during the spring/summer. I love standing in the middle of the lawn and feeling them swooshing past my face (and they have never once caught in my hair…. that’s just an old wives tale!)

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