Bat Patrol – 21st May

Saturday evening was very windy and over cast, not auspicious for an evening watching bats. However, twelve people met at 20.30 by the iron gates, complete with binoculars, torches and bat detectors, and we made our way onto the site, seeing a fox on the way. We had at least an hour to spend before sunset and the emergence of the bats, so the plan was to see what other crepuscular wildlife was about. We made our way to the Causeway to listen for the already departed Nightingale (just in case) and then made our way round to the north east corner of the Deep Pit, by the bench, to look out for the Barn Owl. On the way we saw lots of small groups (probably family parties) of Starlings, dropping into one patch of the Slurry Lagoon reed bed. The top of the nearby pylon was covered with Starlings and groups detatched themselves to glide down to the reed bed and dive in.

We waited for some time but there was no sign of the Barn Owl, but we did see a Rabbit. The wind was not dropping but the Swifts were hunting over the site, some swooping very close to us, and we looked out for a Noctule amongst them, as I have seen them in the past. As we waited, a hawkeyed Alan Edge said, “A badger !” and, to everybodies amazement, a Badger came up the bank from the Gravel Pits, ambled across the path and, when it saw us, bounded into the Deep Pit. That was my first sighting of a Badger on the site and the highlight of the evening.

The light was beginning to go so we made our way to the river, by the railway bridge, and switched on the bat detectors. Almost at once what was probably a Daubenton’s Bat was picked up, but it flew away and wasn’t picked up again. Instead the deafening clicks of a Noctule were heard and some managed to see it above the bridge against the last of the light in the sky. On past visits, in calmer weather, the air above the river has been full of swarms of flying insects, but tonight the wind had either blown them away or put them off coming out, so there was little to entice the bats. We waited a bit longer but only picked up the Noctule or Noctules and so decided to try our luck in the comparative shelter along the Lower Path. By the Irish Bridge we detected Common Pipistrelles and again by the Car Park, inside the metal gates. Steve Wilkinson managed to shine his torch on some so that everybody heard the call on the bat boxes and saw the eratic nature of its flight as it flew in a circuit above us.

At about 22.30 we left the site, everybody very pleased with the sighting of the Badger. We had in fact seen more species of mammal in one visit than any of us are normally privileged to do, so the evening was a definate success.