Wiltshire Mammal Group, newsletter, Spring 2021 – published today!

Hot off the presses! The spring 2021 newsletter published today – thank you to all of the contributors and project leaders who despite the “complications” and restrictions of 2020, continued promoting mammal conservation and survey (whilst following all of the guidance to keep people and our wild mammals safe from infection!).

It was heartening to see, in 2020, mammologists across the county adapt and adopt more non-invasive techniques, such as nest survey, camera trapping, owl pellet analysis etc.

We hope this newsletter inspires you to consider how else you can support mammal conservation in Wiltshire, whether by surveys and recording or by joining online events.

Download the newsletter here.

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Merry Christmas 2020

From everyone at Wiltshire Mammal Group & Wiltshire Bat Group, a very merry Christmas and happy new year to you all!

Thank you to everyone for their time and hard work in surveying and monitoring Wiltshire’s mammals in 2020, despite the craziness of the year.

The Christmas break (and the associated over-indulgence!)  is the perfect time for winter walks and some impromptu mammal recording! Please submit your records via MammalMapper. Your records are important in providing the evidence base to support Wiltshire’s mammals.

Nadolig Llawen – Joyeux Noel – Fröhliche Weihnachten – Wesołych Świąt – Nollaig Shona

Photo credits: Harvest Mouse (C) Andy Blake. With thanks to Caitlin McCann.

“Otters – coming to a river near you – Evening talk with wiltshire mammal group

We are delighted to be hosting Stephen Powles at our virtual Group meeting, 7pm Thursday 10th December.

This will be an opportunity to hear a few updates from the Group, and to hear about activities in 2020, followed by an otterly awesome talk!

Formerly a vet, Stephen changed career to pursue a lifelong passion for wildlife, wildlife photography, filming and conservation. Stephen’s material has made a number of TV appearances. His photography concentrates on interesting and challenging wildlife subjects, many of which are in and close to his home. 

(C) Stephen Powles

Otter enthusiast Stephen Powles will give us an insight into the secretive lives of otters, the signs to look out for and discuss their decline and subsequent recovery. He will also introduce us to “Hammer Scar”, a female that lived on the stream below his home. He observed, photographed and filmed her life in remarkable detail over five years and he will share some of the highlights.

There is no charge to attend this talk but we have a ticket option to include a donation to the WMG to help cover the talk fee if you wish to do so. There are a limited number of places, so book soon to avid disappointment.

You can find more information and book your tickets on the Eventbrite link here.

You don’t need to create an account with Eventbrite, simply click on the above link, click on register and choose either the ‘free ticket’ or ‘ticket with donation’.

Once you have booked your place via Eventbrite, you will receive an email nearer the time with a link to the Zoom meeting and instructions on how to join. Again, you won’t need to create a zoom account.

Hope you can join us for an otterly awesome talk!

Forthcoming bat group meeting, November 2020

Wiltshire Bat Group meeting, Thursday 12th November 2020

Wiltshire Bat Group’s second annual meeting is held in November each year, and this year’s is particularly eagerly awaited after the first meeting of 2020, in May, was cancelled following the uncertainties of the unfolding Covid-19 pandemic.

The November meeting will be a “virtual meet up” (VMU) on Zoom, commencing at 1900hrs.

An agenda will be circulated beforehand – ideas for a “half time” quiz or activity are invited!

The meeting is open to members and non-members. New members are always welcome.

The meeting will be limited to 100 attendees (limited by Zoom), so we want to ensure that everyone who wishes to attend is able to do so. The bat group has well over a hundred members, and many more followers on this Facebook Group, so 100 attendees isn’t such a nuts idea!

If you’d like to attend please email Jenny and let her know (wiltsbg@gmail.com) by Tuesday 11th November 2020.

Please remember to do this, or you wont receive the Zoom link to join the meeting. Jenny will email the list of attendees a day or so before the meeting with the Zoom link to attend.

We look forward to “seeing” you then!

Newsletter Time!

It’s that time of year when the spring newsletters are published; ordinarily we’d promote these newsletters separately, but given that many of us will be in self-isolation now, the additional reading matter may be welcome.

It has been a busy winter of bat hibernation surveys – large numbers of bats were counted at multiple sites across the county, notably the two species of horseshoe bat but also various Myotis species including Bechstein’s bat, Barbastelle bat, Brown long-eared bats and so. Thank you to everyone who supports this work.

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Hibernating Lesser Horseshoe bat (on 6″nail!), South Wiltshire (C) Gareth Harris

It’s important that we all heed the, admittedly rapidly changing, government advice to slow the spread of Covid-19 in the UK, as part of measures to support our National Health Service. But we also need to stay healthy in mind and soul, and we therefore encourage you to enjoy the advancing spring, the queen bumblebees searching for nest sites, the return of songbirds from Africa, and the burst of spring blossoms. A good year perhaps to focus on wildlife close to home such as the hedgehogs and bats in the garden.

Let us know what you see in your garden through the Wiltshire Mammal Group or Wiltshire Bat Group Facebook Groups. Record your sightings with the Mammal Society’s Mammal Mapper app. Consider supporting PTES’s Living with Mammals Survey, perhaps the ideal distraction to survey garden wildlife.

And most importantly, look out for yourself, your loved ones, your neighbours and community.

Will Ponting has done an epic job of compiling the Wiltshire Bat Group newsletter this year – our thanks to all contributors of articles and photographs.

And Rhodri Gruffydd and Jessie Forster have produced another fantastic Wiltshire Mammal Group newsletter on behalf of this year’s contributors. As always, thank you to all contributors of articles and photographs.

Thank you everyone!

Merry Christmas!!

From everyone at Wiltshire Mammal Group & Wiltshire Bat Group, a very merry Christmas and happy new year to you all!

Thank you to everyone for their time and hard work in surveying and monitoring Wiltshire mammals, from the hundreds of hours spent checking bat boxes in Trowbridge to radiotracking Barbastelle bats, from dormouse monitoring across the county, to harvest mouse nest searches – its been a frantically busy year!XmasMbech2

Why not consider the perfect Christmas gift – a year’s membership to Wiltshire Mammal Group or Wiltshire Bat Group!

The Christmas break (and the associated over-indulgence!)  is the perfect time for winter walks and some impromptu mammal recording! Please submit your records via Living Record or email them directly to us. Or consider downloading  MammalMapper. Your records are important in providing the evidence base to support Wiltshire’s mammals.

Nadolig Llawen – Joyeux Noel – Fröhliche Weihnachten – Wesołych Świąt – Nollaig Shona

And another! Wiltshire’s 2nd Alcathoe!

Press release: 

A new species of bat was recorded for the Bath and Bradford on Avon Bats SAC on 29th September, during the 2019 autumn swarming surveys by Wiltshire Bat Group, trapped at the Lady Hamilton’s part of the Box Mine SSSI.

possible Alcathoe bat - tbc (pic KC)
male Alcathoe bat, Box Mine SSSI, September 2019 (C) Keith Cohen

A wing swab DNA sample was taken by Keith Cohen and analysed by Ecotype Ltd at Sussex University, confirming the in-the-hand ID.  It was a small male Myotis that looked a bit unusual, had a short forearm of 31.9mm, and weighed 5.4g.

This is only the second record for Wiltshire, the first being caught by Dani and Keith’s swarming survey at Winsley in 2018.

Big thanks to Dani for organising the swarming surveys, otherwise we wouldn’t even have caught him, and to all those who came out at short notice on a Sunday for a chilly night of adventure and helped make it all possible.

Ed: Well done to Keith and the team. The 2018 Alcathoe was a post-lactating female – so of course, the question is, where is/are the breeding sites??

Bat Surveys of Salisbury Cathedral, August 2019

Earlier this year, Wiltshire Bat Group was invited to visit Salisbury Cathedral for the purpose of undertaking a survey for bats potentially

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Salisbury Cathedral (Photo: G Harris)

roosting in the roof voids.

So on the 15th August, a crack team of surveyors were assembled; Jenny Bennett, Louisa Kilgallen, Becca Grainger-Wood, Lewis Hillier, Craig Brakes and myself, and joined by Sarah Jupp in the evening. Gary Price (Clerk of Works, Salisbury Cathedral) and Phil Sheldrake (RSPB Conservation Officer) hosted us and guided us around the cathedral.

We began by focussing upon the voids over the Nave, South Transept, North Transept and Eastern Roofs/Eastern Transept, collecting a series of samples of bat droppings in each location. Given the size and scale of the Cathedral, we weren’t able to complete an exhaustive search of all roof voids or indeed the whole cathedral, but within a few hours we had collected a lot of samples from the voids we could access. Samples of bat droppings were taken and sent to Swift Ecology / Ecotype Genetics for DNA analyses.

IMG_7442
One of the incredible roof voids of Salisbury Cathedral (Photo: G Harris)

For interest, we deployed two static bat detectors (Wildlife Acoustic SongMeter 4 FS Bat) to the roof voids too, to see what bat activity may be recorded within the voids.

That evening, we also split into two teams and surveyed two walked transects around the cathedral grounds and surrounding land. One team included a large pond in the survey route, whilst the other, incorporated a section of the River Avon.

So, what did we find?

When the DNA results were returned a few days later, amongst the expected samples of common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle and brown long-eared bat were samples of Serotine bat and, surprisingly, Noctule bat!

The static detectors within the roof voids recorded thousands of bat passes over only 3 nights! Whilst the vast majority were common pipistrelle, there were also high numbers of soprano pipistrelle, 32 passes of brown long-eared bat, 16 Myotis passes and a couple of Noctule passes (the quality of the calls suggesting they were INSIDE the void, rather than outside of the roof void).

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Beautiful roof timbers above the Nave (Photo: G Harris)

Given the time of year, unsurprisingly, the high pipistrelle activity was associated a lot of social calls – i.e. mating and courtship behaviour. Similarly, many of the long-eared bat passes also included social calls (perhaps related to courtship or just normal behaviour recorded inside a roost!).

The transect surveys were equally successful with in excess of 550 bat passes recorded by the two groups; close to the pond or the Avon the majority of these passes (unsurprisingly) comprised soprano pipistrelle bats, whilst elsewhere the common pipistrelle bats dominated. Along the Avon were multiple foraging Daubenton’s bats amongst the Soprano pips too – the activity was astonishingly high! Also recorded along the way, were Noctule bats, Serotine bats, long-eared bats, additional Myotis bats, and then, by the cathedral itself, a foraging Leisler’s bat!

The Leisler’s bat is a poorly-understood species in Wiltshire, despite being widespread but uncommon across much of the UK. This species may be found roosting in buildings in large cities (e.g. Bristol and London) as well as more rural areas, foraging over large green spaces, parkland, grasslands and heathland. Whilst we are generating new records of Leisler’s bat across Wiltshire, there remain no known roosts!

The final score was therefore 7 species – common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared bat, Daubenton’s bat, Serotine bat, Noctule bat and Leisler’s bat, with potential for additional Myotis species too. This is a great outcome for a day and night’s work and helps to improve our knowledge and understanding of how bats use the city of Salisbury. We’re keen to support further surveys here – with horseshoe bats roosting once again within the city of Salisbury, hopefully we’ll record either horseshoe species foraging around the cathedral grounds!

Thank you to Phil Sheldrake RSPB for extending the initial invite and to Gary Price (Clerk of Works, Salisbury Cathedral) for guiding us around the cathedral. Thank you to the WBG members undertaking these surveys. Also supporting the bat transect surveys were members of the cathedral’s peregrine nest monitoring team – thanks for guiding us around in the dark! Finally, huge thanks to Swift Ecology & Ecotype Genetics for their help, support and quick DNA analyses.

Further information regarding the distribution of bats within Wiltshire may be found in Mammals in Wiltshire, Second Edition (free download).

Next Wiltshire Mammal Group meeting

Its that time of year – with dates now set for both a bat group meeting and mammal group meeting. For details of the bat group meeting, follow this link;

The next WMG meeting will be on 28th November at 7pm at Wiltshire Scout Centre, Potterne, Potterne Wick SN10 5QT.

We will have Mammal Group Logoa presentation and update on group activities including harvest mouse surveys and the Wiltshire hedgehog project.

There will be plenty of opportunities for chat and meeting group members and your committee.

All are welcome to join us; the meeting is open to members and non-members. Donations are welcome to help cover cost venue costs. New members are always welcome.

Wiltshire Scout Centre is a new venue, just off the A360, just south of Potterne, Devizes. Directions may be found here: http://wiltshirescouts.org.uk/wiltshire-scout-centre/directions-to-the-wsc/. The postcode for satnav is SN10 5QP (not SN10 5QT as their website states), the grid reference is SU000578.

If arriving from the north, you will drive through Devizes; it is worth leaving plenty of time as recent roadworks and traffic control have caused some delays.

Any queries, email us on wiltshiremammalgroup@hotmail.co.uk or follow us on Facebook.

Harvest Mouse nest search survey, autumn 2019

Later this month I’ll be leading two further harvest mouse nest searches in parts of the county not recently surveyed – once again, this is trying to plug gaps in knowledge and known range following the publication of the mammal atlas.

I propose to do two surveys this autumn, depending on the weather of course. These dates will be:

  • Saturday 26th October, 10am-1pm; – farmland and flood meadows of the River Avon, Downton, nr Salisbury
  • Saturday 2nd November, 1030am-130pm;– farmland near Alvediston in the Chalke Valley, south of Tisbury

HM nest_SPTA-Enford_Oct18
green Harvest Mouse nest, Salisbury Plain, October 2018 (C) Gareth Harris

Depending on levels of interest additional dates may be added for early November. No experience is necessary and training will be provided. Bring wet weather gear, sturdy boots and for searching in vegetation bring gloves and walking stick (or similar) to help with parting tall vegetation. Wellington boots will be required for the survey along the River Avon as it will likely be wet! You may wish to bring food and drink too.

Events are subject to the whims of weather – so please book your place so that we can provide directions to the meeting place, as well as confirm if the survey is going ahead in the event of poor weather.

Please email me (wiltsbatrecords@gmail.com) to book your place.

Regards, Gareth Harris (county recorder)

 

 

 

Conserving all Wiltshire & Swindon's mammals