Welcome to the BNA Taw & Exmoor Branch News

22 August 2018

Elizabeth Fowler has kindly agreed to take over the running of any exhibitions we may attend and also any long stay outings.

To this end please keep 13th & 14th October free as she will be looking for volunteers to man the stand at the annual wildlife exhibition at St Johns Garden Centre in Barnstaple. If enough members volunteer then it’s only a couple of hours each and hopefully there will be enough to have two people per shift.

Puffing Billy, Torrington. Sunday 19th August 2018

How appropriate that this month’s outing was not only one by popular request to see bats, but bats were not only featured on the front and back cover of the latest edition of “British
Naturalist” but there was an article inside about Bechstein’s and barbastelle bats in the Devizes and Stert Valley area.
As we drove over to the meeting place, the mizzle which had persisted all day was very much in evidence. However by the time we got to The Puffing Billy it had stopped and we had a good attendance. A wood pigeon shot off on our arrival as a heron flapped lazily overhead and a little egret was busily feeding at the waters edge of the River Torridge. The scent from a self seeded buddleia permeated the atmosphere and the yellow flowers of the evening primrose beamed like yellow lights in the gathering twilight.
The walk was led by Samantha Pickering of the North Devon Bat Rescue Group and she brought along some bats that were recovering from injury so we could get close up views of the pipistrelle which is the smallest bat, the serotine which is one of the largest to the largest, a noctule bat which can fly up to 40 mph and could live to be 30 years old. She kindly explained about the various types of bats all of which in this country are insect only eating including the long eared bat which is also known as the whispering bat as it doesn’t make much noise and because of it’s broad wings it can also hover. Devon because of it’s diverse range of habitats hosts a wide selection of the 17 different bats found in the UK. Baby bats are often out learning to fly in August and might brush past you but that is the nearest they will get to being in your hair.
One of the local residents joined us and kindly allowed us on to his property. Samantha then got very excited when she found some bat droppings and then proceeded to crush them to dust between her fingers to prove that they were bat droppings and not mice droppings which look very similar.
It was now getting quite dimpsy and when something flashed past it was difficult to tell if it was a bat or a house martin as both were present in the farmhouse. However as Samantha had provided lots of bat detectors that soon sorted that problem out.
Around now past the kennels for The Stevenstone Hunt, which would provide another good source of insects for the bats which was just as well as bats can eat up to 3000 small insects a night. Along a driveway flanked by tall trees and bats were heard via the bat detectors and if you were quick enough you could see them silhouetted against the night sky.
Over the original Bideford to Torrington stone road bridge over a slow moving River Torridge (of Tarka the otter fame) plenty of Daubenton’s bats were now detected.

Once down at the water’s edge a torch light beam revealed hordes of flying insects over the water with flashing glimpses of the bats, whilst the bat detectors were working overtime. A quick trip then to a former railway arch in the hope of seeing a horseshoe bat but no luck.
Still it been a worthwhile and very interesting outing.