The annual bat walk at Downton Moot was a great success again this year, with around 20 people attending the event on Saturday 23rd May.
Arranged by Susan Barnhurst Davies on behalf of the Moot Trust, and led by Jan Freeborn from the Wiltshire/Dorset Bat Group and Michelle Brown from the National Trust, the group met at 8:30pm at the main gates to the Moot. Jan welcomed the group, which consisted of a variety of local residents and interested parties, from children to adults, from couples to individuals, all hoping to catch a glimpse of these fascinating creatures of the night.
Jan introduced the event and gave an insightful talk about the 18 species of bat found in the UK and details on the species that have been encountered at the former 12th Century fortified earthworks and site of an early 18th Century pleasure grounds. Now a landscaped garden, the Moot provided a stunning backdrop to listen to and explore the captivating world of bats.
The evening sprang to life with the emergence of soprano pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) and common pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) foraging along the tree lines and hunting along the site’s border with the River Avon; a credit to the sensitive site management which creates a valuable haven for both wildlife and people. These were joined by Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii) who could be seen swooping and diving over the pond in an amazing display of white bellies flashing over lily pads as they caught small insects from the water surface in the dark.
Jan and Michelle lead the group back to the gates and proceeded to try their luck at some mist netting under special licence from Natural England. Their patience proved fruitful with the capture of two female soprano pipistrelles, which were then released back to their night of mosquito hunting.
The event generated another year of bat records which will contribute to the knowledge of bats at the Moot and help to inform management plans to ensure these wonderful creatures remain valued Moot residents for the future.
As always the proceeds for the event were shared between the Moot and Dorset Bat Group, contributing to the continued survival of bats. To join in next year’s bat walk, keep your eyes peeled for the details which will be advertised locally.