New Forest Project Update - June 2012

Bat group members put up a total of 94 bat boxes at four sites in the New Forest over three days in May.  The boxes will be checked for the first time in September and at least twice each year thereafter.  

Nik Knight & Nicola Pyle started their fourth transect in the Forest this year. The transects are conducted once each month for an entire year and are a means of gathering valuable data on species distribution such as barbastelle.  Nick and Nicola have now completed three years of transects and have recorded barbastelle in each area. The mild winter rewarded them with some of the best bat counts of the year during the December transect and so this data is also providing interesting insights into winter foraging.  The Bat Group received a call from a lady who found an injured female Bechstein’s bat at Hatchett Pond near Beaulieu in early May.  Sadly the bat did not survive.

We organised mist netting sessions within the National Park but some had to be cancelled due to the weather with the wettest May on record.  Notwithstanding this we found our fifth maternity colony of Bechstein’s bats at Clayhill just south of Lyndhurst at the end of the month. We caught four females within the first hour of the survey;  and ringed them all. We radio tagged one and then took the nets down early to avoid stressing too many bats.  Subsequent tracking and emergence surveys have located four roosts so far with a maximum of 14 bats at any one time.  The radio tagged bat did not emerge every evening during roost emergence counts although she did move every night/morning to a different roost tree.  It’s likely that the colony is larger than 14 bats and so more volunteers are needed to count roosts in the coming months please!

During the same mist netting survey we saw at least 20 myotis bats swarming around a tree with flaking bark, a barbastelle also flew over so it was clearly a good spot!  We did an emergence survey on the tree the following night but only six bats emerged; recordings proved they were myotis bats but species identification around a roost can be unreliable.  They are unlikely to have been Bechstein’s as maternity colonies of this species have not been recorded roosting beneath flaking bark. We returned on another occasion and set a large sheet out beneath the roost site but only collected one dropping.  The dropping was small suggesting that it may be a whiskered/Brandt’s roost. The dropping has been sent for DNA analysis using money donated by the National Park.

A further mist netting survey at Sowley Pond was fruitful despite torrential rain for the first hour and showers for the second hour after we opened the nets.  We decided to stick it out as we had travelled some distance to get there and it was really the last chance to net before stopping for a few months to avoid catching pregnant bats or those with young.   Despite the weather we caught 2 male Bechstein’s, 2 barbastelle, 4 whiskered and 2 pips.  We did not tag the barbastelle because we couldn’t guarantee a tracking team for the following week.  The survey was originally aimed at catching grey long-eared bats as there is a local record and the species forages over wet grassland.  The Sowley Estate kindly gave us permission to conduct some surveys and we hope to return in mid/late July when we will try again.  The rain may have had some impact as we didn’t encounter a single brown long-eared bat despite being out from 9pm until 3am!

Above: Bat Group members Paul Hope erecting two of the bat boxes (left photo) and Nicola Pyle numbering one of the boxes! Below: Members of one of the bat box teams (from left to right) - Nicola Pyle, Paul Hope, Colleen Hope, John Atkinson, Nik Knight, Tim Creed (keeper from the Forestry Commission) & Fran the dog.

Mist netting surveys will resume in late July/early August.  We are always looking for people to help with transect surveys at any time of the year.  

We now have at least 20 maternity roost trees for Bechstein’s and barbastelle bats (plus one building used by at least a single Bechstein’s bat). These trees really do with regular if not intermittent emergence surveys.  If you think you can help then please get in touch.

Above: Two of the roosts at Coxlease. The access hole on the left hand tree is on the underside half way up the tree. Below: Bechstein’s bat ready for release.

Many thanks to all of those who helped putting up bat boxes and contributed on surveys. Particular thanks should go to those who helped with the subsequent emergence surveys on trees the tagged Bechstein’s bat moved to (always of course at minimal notice) and to Tomasz for taking the train and cycling to Sowley Pond and then staying up until dawn!

With thanks to the following for volunteering this year so far:
John Atkinson, Jon Poland, Tomasz Ekiert, Paul Hope, Nik Knight, Nicola Pyle, Tim Creed, Petrina Fitzpatrick and family, Matt Clarke, David Andrews, Louise Fairless & Ian Barker.

With thanks to the following for funding and support:
New Forest National Park, New Forest National Park Sustainable Development Fund, New Forest Trust, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Foundation.