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.
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.
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 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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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???
Walking back to the car through the Autumn wood