Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Bats and Newts

Well, we've had a very interesting week so far!

On Monday we were checking our bat boxes, so we could find out which boxes were occupied by which species.  Out of 56 different boxes set in clusters across the estate, we found 18 bats.  There were two boxes with seven bats in, one with three and one with one bat.  All the bats were female soprano pipistrelles.  This is unusual as we usually find male bats too, but then we haven't checked our boxes this early in the season before.

We also found some old birds nests, and snalis and other invertebrates, so not only bats use bat boxes.
Even more exciting, we have a icence to ring any soprano pipistrelles that we find in the boxes.  This is similar to bird ringing, but bat rings go on the forearm, not on the leg.  The bat rings don't close completely like bird rings do, but they are an omega shape, and the bottom is left open, so it doesn't puncture the wing.  The rings are very light, and they won't interfere with flying or feeding.  Ringing the bats in the boxes means that we can track their movements during the following box checks to see which groups stay together, if they move between bat boxes, and around the estate.  It will also be interesting to see which females are still here during the breeding season, and how many males move in too.  We'll keep you updated the next time we check the boxes!

A ringed soprano pipistrelle bat
 On Tuesday night we set out bottle traps to survey our ponds for newts.  The traps act like lobster pots, and over night the newts swim or crawl into the pots and can't find their way out again.  In the morning we check them all and identify and count the newts, then let them go back into the ponds.  This morning we found 101 newts from seven different ponds.  We found all three species of native newt - smooth, palmate and great crested. 

A pale male palmate newt

The large newt in this photo is a male great crested newt with a partially formed crest - it will develop more over time.  Females dont have a crest.  The other two newts in the photo are male palmate newts.  You can identify them by the thread-like filament at that sticks out of the end of their tail (if you look closely).
 We've got our fingers crossed for another good catch when we survey the second half of the ponds tonight!

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