I sat up late writing my notes and just after midnight heard a noise outside the open window and was face to face with a badger! I watched it for about 20 minutes until it was joined by a second, larger animal.
Stackpole is one of the largest Greater Horseshoe bat roosts in the UK, with over 600 individuals. We were in position for about 9:15pm, and almost immediately saw the first bat emerge from what looked like a trap door in the roof of an archway. It looked huge in comparison to the Lesser Horseshoe bats which we have become accustomed to seeing at Orielton, but like the lesser, these bats came out, flew around for a few seconds, but then went back into the trap door. Soon we had three bats flying around above our heads, until at last one broke ranks and flew away under the nearby trees and was lost to sight.
By 9:45pm there were ay least 10 bats flying around under the arch, and many were now flying away, but were swiftly replaced by others emerging from the trap door. On at least two occasions we heard the slap of wings as they clashed. As the bats left the archway they would drop low and fly no more than about 0.5m above the ground for as far as we could see in the fading light. A memorable experience!
A remarkable evening watching the bats at Orielton. Probably
less than 20m from my bedroom door, I counted at least 38 lesser horseshoe and
6 greater horseshoe bats emerge from their roost in a storage room at the side
of the stables. At about 9pm, in still reasonable light, one by one they
started to emerge through a doorway, and there was definitely a difference in
the method of emergence used by the two species, to such an extent that you could confidently identify them by
how the left the room.
The lessers, broadcasting on a frequency of 110khz, flew around in the room for a minute or two before
coming right up to the entrance, but then turning back at the last second and
going back into the room. They would repeat this for a further minute or two,
and each time they came to the door they would come out a little bit further,
almost as if they were checking how dark it was. Sometimes they would fly 10m
or more beyond the doorway, before returning to the room. At last though they
would go, they would come out at the top of the doorway and would fly up and
away over the roof.
On the other hand, the greaters, on 80khz, flew out like a rocket, low
across the ground, and remaining no more than 0.5m above the ground until lost
to sight in the fading light.
Amazingly, virtually all of the lessers went over the same bit of roof to the left of the door, whilst all of the greaters came out of the doorway and went right, all following the same route.
Very difficult to capture any of this on camera, and even if
I could it wouldn’t tell the story. All I can do is put it into words and leave
you with the consolation of a photo of lesser horseshoe bat poo.
Four spot footman
Black arches a few
Buff footman lots
For the next few days I'm staying in the stables at Orielton, which is very nice and has the added advantage of being a SSSI on account of its Lesser Horseshoe Bats! We also have a group of moth trappers staying which accounts for the moth records.
Little Grebe, Hillsborough Lake. I was made up with this because it completes the set of decent summer plumage grebe photos this year. I've managed to get photos of all five species in summer plumage now! Little grebe was actually by far the most difficult.
Drake ring necked duck (left) and female (right) at the Mullagh. See post from yesterday for more photos and a write up on these birds.
Spotted flycatcher. There was a family party at Maghabbery.
Little grebe 30 inc pairs with chicks
Common tern 10
Year: 266 (ring necked duck)
Having missed the bird of the year in St. Helens (so far??) I was delighted to at last catch up with this pair of ring necked ducks, and what a great place to see them. Going into eclipse, but still great birds and very wary. Even better this was my first female ring necked duck.
Nothing wrong with the female ring necked duck (right), it's quite unlike any tufted duck I've seen, but I was a bit unsure about the male (left). However the bill is good, and further research has revealed that eclipse drakes often have this tuft like appearance.