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Posts Tagged ‘looking for wildlife in the garden’

I hope that you all had a fun Halloween, my favourite part is trimming up the front of the house with scary pumpkins, cobwebs, big spiders and bats – it’s funny we only tend to think about Bats at Halloween yet for most of the year they live all around us, in the UK we have 18 species of Bats, many of which we rarely see, they will probably have been flying above you whilst you were trick or treating, searching for flying insects (midges, beetles and moths) brought out by the warm weather, this year was the warmest Halloween on record reaching an incredible 23.6C (74.5F) in London during the afternoon.

Bats are not scary at all in fact they are beautiful, unique mammals that live a secretive life. Bats emerge at dusk to feed whilst they fly, during October/November they are making the most of any available insects and building up their fat reserves which is crucial to their survival during hibernation in the winter months. There is a saying ‘as blind as a Bat’ in fact Bats are not blind they have good eyesight, as good as ours, when they are hunting for insects at night they use their hearing to locate their prey, as they fly they make calls or ‘clicks’ and then listen to the returning echos, this is called Echolocation, it helps them to build up a map of their surroundings , including objects which they do not want to fly into and also to locate flying insects (their prey). The calls that the Bats make are usually pitched at a high frequency that we cannot hear, you can hear these calls if you have a Bat Detector, not only will it pick up the calls of Bats that are near but you can determine which species of Bat it is as each Bat has its own unique call.

Bats begin to hibernate in November, hibernation is a state of inactivity when the metabolic rate slows, body temperature is lowered and breathing is slower, during this time they live off their fat reserves they will begin to emerge in March looking for insects. Bats roost on their own or in small groups often in cool quiet places such as attics, disused buildings, tunnels, bridges, caves, or old trees but due to modern housing and redevelopment their roosting sites are diminishing, in the UK, bat populations have declined considerably over the last century.

We can all give our Bats a helping hand by putting up Bat Boxes, now is a crucial time for them, 2 or 3 placed in different directions will provide a range of roosting temperatures at different times, site as high up as possible, in a semi sunny position and out of prevailing winds and rain (preferably facing south, south-east and south-west). Boxes can be put on buildings ideally up by the eaves or on trees, 2 or 3 can be arranged around the trunks of larger trees, clear away any surrounding branches especially underneath so that the Bats have clear access and can land easily before climbing up into the box, different species will occupy different types of boxes.

The Double Chamber Bat Box  has two chambers with ledges for Bats to cling to.

 Wooden Bat Box

The Conservation Bat Box has vertical chambers with angled cut-away front showing ladder style grooves which allows the bat to climb into one of the twin chambers.

 Conservation bat box

All UK bats and their roosts are protected by law, which means it is illegal to harm or disturb them so don’t be tempted to open your bat box to see who is inside instead you will have to watch closely at dusk to see if anyone comes out, another sign that they are occupied is ‘mouse sized’ droppings that contain insects underneath the box, it may take quite a while for Bats to use your box be patient or you may be lucky and they move in within weeks.

So go ‘batty’ this month and put up a Bat box

Love your environment

Gill

 

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All of our family are passionate about wildlife and have been watching  Springwatch avidly over the last 3 weeks, on one of their programmes they were encouraging people to take part in a survey to monitor the Hedgehog population by putting food in a friendly ‘trap’ this reminded me of the project that myself and Thomas did in February to detect whether we had mice in the greenhouse.

Most winters mice take up residence in my greenhouse there are many potential nesting places amongst the empty compost bags, fleeces and plant pots/seed trays, one year I even found a nest in the middle of a large ball of string it was very cute, although I love all creatures great and small mice can be very messy and smelly, they are definitely not toilet trained and have been known to nibble my young seedlings, so during the school holidays for a bit of fun we made a Mouse detector.

How to make a Mouse Detector

What you will need

  • A Plastic Pipe (minimum 30cm long, 7cm diameter)
  • or a Cardboard box (minimum base size 30cm x 20cm)
  • or an open ended narrow Wood Tunnel – see picture below (if you know somebody handy in DIY)
  • White paper
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Poster paint (non-toxic)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Tasty snacks – Peanut Butter/Chocolate/Bird Seed Mixture

mammal detector 1

How to make your detector

  1. Thomas’s dad made a wood tunnel using off-cuts and with a removable top (although this is not necessary) it measured approx. 40 x 15 x 15cm externally.
  2. Cut your white paper to fit in the bottom of your detector.
  3. If you are using a cardboard box cut two small holes at opposite sides of the box at ground level.
  4. Cut two small pieces of greaseproof paper to fit across your openings at least 4cm deep and glue or staple down.
  5. Mix your poster paint with an equal amount of vegetable oil and brush generously onto the greaseproof paper.
  6. Place your tasty snacks in the centre of the sheet of paper.
  7. If you are using a plastic pipe or wood tunnel staple the greaseproof pieces at either ends of your paper, apply your paint, put your snacks in the centre of the sheet and slide carefully into the pipe/tunnel.
  8. Place your traps at the bottom of a wall, fence or hedge before you go to bed at night, any visitors tempted by the food will walk through the paint and leave their footprints on your paper, we found that it is a good idea to place sheets of paper on the outside of your trap (if the ground is flat) as the mice will walk through the paint again before leaving, use a cardboard box on dry evenings or inside a greenhouse/shed/outbuilding as they are not waterproof.

Mouse prints

We indeed did have mice, they were nesting in some old bird boxes that were being stored in the greenhouse I temporarily blocked the holes up with some old socks whilst I moved the bird boxes complete with mice to a corner of my allotment, unfortunately my kindness has back fired I think that the hungry mice have been helping themselves to my newly sown peas as very few have germinated!

Have fun and love your environment

Gill

 

 

 

 

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