Forthcoming bat group meeting, November 2020

Hold the Date: 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.

An invite will be circulated shortly with further sign-up information.

In the meantime, hold that date……

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.

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

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.

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).

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: 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 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 ( to book your place.

Regards, Gareth Harris (county recorder)




Bat Group meeting November 2019 – featuring Paul Colley, Wildlife Photographer

Wiltshire Bat Group’s second meeting of 2019 will be on Thursday 14th November 2019, 7pm, Wiltshire Scout Centre, Potterne Wick, nr Devizes. 

We are excited to host Paul Colley, British Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018, at our forthcoming group meeting. Pauls’ winning image in 2018 was of a Daubenton’s bat at Coate Water, Swindon. Paul has been out and about with WBG this year capturing some absolutely superb footage of bats; from the emergence of Barbastelles from tree roosts, to swarming activity. Paul’s talk will cover how wildlife photography is being used to promote the conservation of wildlife and habitats in forests, rivers and oceans across the Globe.

Paul Colley_WBG event flyer














The meeting will commence with some bat group business before Paul’s talk. 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: 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.

Next Wiltshire Bat Group……

Wiltshire Bat Group’s first meeting of 2019 will be on Thursday 9th May 2019, 7pm, Wiltshire Scout Centre, Potterne Wick, nr Devizes. 

Following some brief bat group business, Professor Fiona Mathews, University of Sussex and Chair of the Mammal Society, will be presenting further analyses of 15 years or so of monitoring the various mines and caves of the Bath & Bradford-on-Avon area (some of which comprise the Bath & Bradford-on-Avon Special Area of Conservation). This talk builds upon her presentation at a bat group meeting 2 years ago.

Fiona says; “The Wiltshire Bat group began ferreting about in caves in 1999.  Having established that the numbers of greater horseshoe bats in underground sites were significant, we began a programme of systematic ringing and monitoring that has continued for 15 years. This talk will take stock of what we’ve learnt from the more than 7,000 bat encounters we’ve logged, and be considering what the future holds for our populations in the context of continuing urban expansion, changes to farming, and climate change.  There might well be the odd fun photo too!

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: 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. 

Press release: Rare Alcathoe bat found for first time in Wiltshire

One of the rarest mammals in Britain has been found in Wiltshire.

The Alcathoe bat was first found in Britain in 2010 and, despite a lot of work to try and find it, sightings have only been made in North Yorkshire and a small area of Sussex and Surrey.

confirmed Myotis alcathoe, Winsley (Will's cave)
The female Alcathoe bat (C) Keith Cohen

This is why the discovery — made outside a cave near Bradford-on-Avon — has so excited Professor of Environmental Biology Fiona Mathews who has, with the Wiltshire Bat Group, been monitoring the area for many years.

Local bat workers Keith Cohen and Danielle Linton, who captured the bat said “We have been trapping bats at these Wiltshire swarming sites for many years. This bat looked distinctly different from those we usually catch, so it was very exciting in case it could be an Alcathoe bat. Luckily we very soon also caught a whiskered bat, which is the species it looks most like, and could compare them side-by-side.”

High Res Alcathoe AND whiskered (pic Camilla Mitchell)
Alcathoe bat (left) and Whiskered bat (right) (C) Camilla Michell

Professor Mathews said: “It’s incredibly exciting for the Alcathoe bat to have been found at this site. “In my recent report with the Mammal Society A Review of the Population and Conservation Status of British Mammals – JP025, I classified it as one of the species in most urgent need of research. We quite literally know almost nothing about it.”

The female bat, that had just finished breeding, was found at a swarming site in early autumn last year by workers who thought it looked unusual and sent dropping samples to Professor Mathews to test.

She explained: “Some types of bats go to swarming sites late at night after feeding. They’re almost like nightclubs for bats. Tens or even hundreds of bats can turn up but behaviour is very sporadic, so any given site could have hundreds of bats one night and absolutely none the next. We monitor these sites carefully and catch bats using mist nets, which are like large fishing nets. The bats are then removed by specially-licensed bat workers, checked and released unharmed. In this instance, workers thought the bat looked a bit unusual and sent dropping samples to me at Sussex where my company, Ecotype Genetics, confirmed the identity of the species using DNA analysis.”

There are currently 18 species of bats in the UK, of which 17 are known to breed here.
While the population size of the common pipistrelle, which is found throughout the UK is thought to be close to 2 million, the population of Alcathoe bats is likely to just a few thousand individuals, and breeding has been confirmed in only one small area in the South-East of England.

Malc_DHargreaves v2
Alcathoe bat (C) Daniel Hargreaves

Professor Mathews said: “The Alcathoe bat looks very similar to two other related species, the whiskered and Brandt’s bat species, so it is possible that people misidentify it. Indeed it was only separated as a distinct species in Europe in 2001. The areas where it has been caught so far usually have old oak woodlands nearby, which is not the case with the bat we’ve just found.

“This only serves to illustrate exactly why we need to do more research about the species to understand its needs, and how we can protect it.”

Press released by Professor Fiona Mathews, University of Sussex and Wiltshire Bat Group.

Conserving all Wiltshire & Swindon's mammals