Extra Bat Boxes in the Blackwater Valley

One of the aims of the Bat Appeal was to extend the roosting sites for bats along the Blackwater Valley corridor. Extra boxes have already been put up at Moor Green Lakes and more are planned for Lakeside Park.

Bat Boxes will also be put up in two new areas.

The first is in larger trees along the edge of the Manor Farm extension. These boxes will extend to the west the roosting opportunities that Moor Green Lake boxes provide.

The second is in part of Wellesley Woodlands, which is a recently opened natural green open space boasting diverse habitats, an abundance of wildlife and a network of trails to explore. It is a new area open to the public and links Wellington’s statue in Aldershot to Lakeside Park in Ash via the Basingstoke Canal. Wellesley Woodlands also extends the green corridor of the Blackwater Valley as the Blackwater River rises in Rowhill not far from Wellington’s statue.

The Land Trust has a long term lease on the Woodlands and has appointed the Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership to manage the site to maximise its value to people and wildlife. The woodlands contain a lot of young trees so are good for foraging bats but with limited roosting opportunities. New and refurbished bat boxes bought by the Bat Appeal will be placed in the woodlands to extend the chain of roosting sites for bats along the Blackwater Valley.

Sue Cload – BVCT Trustee (November 2015)

Bat Box Surveys at Moor Green Lakes

image001image003Trustees Bernard Baverstock and Sue Cload carried out the Moor Green Lakes survey with much appreciated assistance and muscle from Will, Jane and Carole.

We checked 20 boxes and put up three new ones. The new ones are part of the Bat Appeal aim to extend the roosting sites for bats along the Blackwater Valley corridor.

The survey was late this year in November so we knew it was unlikely that there would be bats roosting in the boxes. However we like to clear out the boxes ready for them to use next year, and check what has been using them.

image005There were a few surprises this year. We often find bird nests here and we did find five nests and three other with bird droppings. The photo shows a bat box with the front removed. The birds have to fly in through the bat entrance at the bottom of the box and up behind to the nest.

We also found two mouse nests! They had obviously climbed the trees and made nice cosy nests in the boxes.

image007Then there were the hornets’ nests! Hornets seem to prefer the larger bat boxes. One nest completely filled the box and they had started building on the outside too. They had also used some of the wood from the baffles inside the bat boxes as nest building material and to clear their entrance way. Luckily they had departed by the time of our check – so maybe a late survey has some advantages.

Sue Cload – BVCT Trustee (November 2015)

Bat Box Surveys at Lakeside Park 

BVCP Manager Steve Bailey, BVCT Trustees Bernard Baverstock and Sue Cload, and trainee ranger Jenny, carried out the Lakeside Park survey. This is the oldest bat box scheme in the valley which has been running for 22 years. There have been over 30 boxes for most of that time.

The survey was late this year so we did not expect to find many bats, and indeed we did not find any of the Pipistrelles that are usually on the site. 24 boxes were checked and cleared where feasible. Occupancy of the 24 boxes checked (measured by bat droppings) was over 60% for the first time. The droppings were several centimetres deep in some boxes!

We found Daubenton’s bats (water bats) in three boxes, seven in one box and four in another. The photo shows about 20 Daubenton’s bats in a Lakeside box from a previous survey. It is unusual to find Daubenton’s bats in bat boxes, but they use boxes in the Blackwater Valley because there is a lack of mature trees to provide natural roosting sites.

image001The third box was very unusual and sad as there was a dead bat stuck in the entrance way and five other bats dead in the box.
We are not sure what had happened.

Honey bees had taken over one of the large boxes; it was not checked as the bees were still active! We also found six bird nests as well as the usual spiders and earwigs.

Two boxes were moved from a dead tree near the lake and put onto another tree deeper in the woodlands.

There is an interesting selection of box types at Lakeside including Long Slit boxes that we hope will attract Barbastelle bats. We plan to hang a few more boxes at Lakeside Park from those purchased or refurbished as part of the Bat Appeal.

Sue Cload – BVCT Trustee (November 2015)

September 18th – Aldershot – BVCT Bat Walk

The walk was led by Bernard Baverstock. Ten members attended and were very lucky as it was a great night for seeing and hearing bats.

Bernard started off by showing us a Pipistrelle bat that he was nursing back to health, feeding it on mealworms. It was very lively and about to be released back in the wild (thanks to Hilary for the photos).

You can see from the photos that the bat is very small and mouse-like with a warm fur coat. The bat’s wings are membranes, attached at the shoulders and ankles, which they have to groom to keep them supple. Pipistrelles can live for about 20 years and produce one offspring a year.

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We then left the car park and walked towards a clearing in the woods, where we immediately saw some Soprano Pipistrelles criss-crossing the clearing chasing insects. Using the bat detectors we could hear them at 55kHz. We then tried 20kHz and heard the ‘chip chop’ sound of Noctule bats hunting. Noctules are larger bats; we did not actually see them as they tend to fly at tree top level.

We then moved on to a clearing with a view of the lakes and heard and saw Soprano Pipistrelles, Noctules and Daubenton’s bats. People had their detectors on various frequencies so it was quite a cacophony of sound! We watched the Daubenton’s bats flying low over the lake picking up insects from the water’s surface.

Our final treat was to hear crickets with the bat detectors – they have the same frequency as Noctule bats. It was a great evening for a bat encounter.

Swallowfield Show

A very wet Swallowfield Show gave the opportunity for those who braved the elements to exchange stories. A wildlife-loving 80-year-old from Spencers Wood, Maureen King, told us about a bat she rescued. The tiny creature was lying in the road so she picked it up, took it home and put it in a shoebox. A call to her local vets gave her a contact number for bat help.

She was advised to put a wad of cotton wool soaked in water near the bat, which clung onto the wool and started sucking, obviously very thirsty.

Maureen then took the bat to the bat help contact in Reading and they nursed it back to health. Three weeks later she had a phone to say it was ready for release. It was brought to Maureen and she was there when it was released where she had found it. She was very pleased to have helped save its life.

Sue Cload – BVCT Trustee (August 2014)

A New Housing Development – for Bats

As part of our Homes for Bats appeal The Trust is helping to create a new hibernation site in the Valley.

When the gravel extraction finished at Hanson’s Farnham Quarry it was  suggested that a tunnel part of a processing plant structure could be converted into a bat hibernaculum.  Hanson incorporated the idea into their plans and buried the tunnel to create an island within one of the lakes of the Tice’s Meadow reserve and grilled the entrance to  make it safe from disturbance. The  Trust recently provided and erected a  variety of boxes to enhance the space for bats, giving them a choice of roosting crevices.

Thanks must go to Hanson for the initial work, Tony Anderson from BVCP, Richard Horton from the Tice’s Meadow Group and Trustee Bernard Baverstock for putting the boxes up.