Late May 2015 It’s the last day of May and the weather hasn’t been too kind to the barbastelle bat tracking team. Watching the Countryfile weather review of the month we hear that May has been colder than usual with higher than average rainfall and, more often than not, the sun has been obscured by cloud. Preparing to set off for a night’s bat tracking are we feeling gloomy? No. Andy and the volunteers managed to trap five female barbastelle bats last Thursday and we’re feeling optimistic. Our job tonight is to find the bats in their respective roosts and get some idea of where they’ll go foraging. All these bats have names and we now know them as Sue, Anthea, Sophie, Michaela and LiLi and each one has their own unique frequency on the tags they’re wearing.
At the higher car park on Trendlebere Down the aerials and receivers are set up, almost immediately locating Sue down at her roost near Becky Falls. No sign of the others though. Are you there Anthea? We move closer to the roost as sun set approaches to see if we can find the other bats. It’s good tracking practice for those of us not used to the equipment. As the sun drops it gets chilly and the tawny owls are calling through the trees. With torches ready and coats zipped up we do the bat tracker shuffle to keep warm. It seems like Sue’s not going out tonight so we travel back to the high point on Trendlebere Down to find out if there’s any movement along the Bovey Valley.
Radio tracking from the high point, Trendlebere Down
As we look down into the gorge, darkness creeps up on us but the bats are not revealing their locations. Has it gone too cold again? While we wait we listen to the churring of a nearby nightjar. Sue and her friends are not entertaining us tonight but at least the night birds are out. We decide to call it a day and wait for “flaming” June.
Just before going to press I hear the news that LiLi has just been located in her roost near Becky Falls. The weather forecast is predicting the start of summer before the weekend so, refusing to feel gloomy, we’ll hope for a bit more luck then.
Words and images for the Barbastelle Tracking Diary are by Matt Parkins
The Bovey Valley barbastelle tracking project is managed by the Moor than meets the eye Landscape Partnership comprising Dartmoor National Park Authority, the Woodland Trust and Natural England.