Featured next in our top-10 Dove Stone wildlife countdown to the BioBlitz it's the Noctule Bat ( Nyctalus noctula ).
We're hoping we'll record Noctules at Dove Stone on our Friday night bat talk and walk, they have been recorded previously at Dove Stone, alongside records of Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, Whiskered Brandt and Daubenton's bat. So why are we featuring Noctule ? It was a bit of a throw-up with Daubenton's, Daubenton's Bat being characteristically a bat that flies and forages over water and they often use their feet to trawl for insects, hence the Dove Stone link - it's awesome to watch them fly low over Dove Stone reservoir. Whilst Daubentons's Bats are increasing in range the Noctule bat, although widespread, has declined in Britain as a result of habitat loss including loss of suitable roosting trees from woodland edges and hedgerows, being good sources of invertebrates. Bats are just one species which will benefit from habitat restoration work at Dove Stone such as the planting of hedgerow on field margins that we've undertaken over the last year.
Back to some Noctule bat facts. The Noctule Bat is one of the largest British species and is a bat that appears early in the evening, sometimes before sunset. They'll be foraging for food from around dusk for up to two hours. They've a characteristic powerful, direct flight and fly in the open, often well above tree-top level. One of the exciting things about Noctules is their steep dives when chasing insects. They'll catch most of their food on the wing and eat in flight but occasionally they'll take prey from the ground. This time of year Noctules will probably be feeding on beetles ( mainly chafer and dung ) and moths; earlier in the year it will be smaller insects like midges and winged ants.
There it is. The Noctule Bat. Look forwards to hopefully recording it on Friday evening's Bat Talk & Walk: 8.30pm, Dove Stone Sailing Club.
...And the next species in our top-10 Dove Stone wildlife countdown to nex Saturday's BioBlitz is Violet Ground Beetle (Carabus violaceus).
There's about 350 ground beetle ( Carabidae family ) species in Britain and the Violet Ground Beetle is a widespread, common beetle found throughout the UK but none-the-less spectacular for that because it's just a great looking beetle !
Violet Ground Beetles are about 30mm, black with a metallic purple sheen around the edges of their fused together wing cases (elytra). The fusion of their wing cases acts as a protective armour. Violet Ground Beetles are carnivorous, actively hunting slugs, worms and other insects, including aphids; makes them popular with gardeners ! The larvae, which are also carniverous, take ten months to mature and then they pupate in the soil. They then emerge as adult beetles in the autumn, but don't become active until the following spring, hibernating during the coldest winter months. As adults, they'll live for about nine months.
Many ground beetles are nocturnal and find shade and shelter during the day from log piles, leaf litter or just some large stones. At next Saturday's BioBlitz we'll be looking for ground beetles particularly around our 'Bug Zone', where we've lots of log piles that have purposefully been left from our woodland restoration work to create habitat for insects. We’ll also have specialists with us here from the British Arachnological Society helping to identify any spiders we find. How great is that !
I'm constantly amazed by just how many different types of wildflowers we have at Dove Stone, especially in the meadows and along the edge of the main trail. It's an area of knowledge that I've been getting into more and more over the last few years, and there's always something new to learn, thanks to Kate telling me what to look out for! I think I've got my work cut out though - last year at BioBlitz we recorded over 170 species of plant at Dove Stone, and we're hoping to record even more a week on Saturday! But I just love learning about them, and some of the names are great - Viper's Bugloss, Devil's-bit Scabious, Ragged Robin, Bogbean...you couldn't make them up.
One of the first wildflowers that I saw and wanted to identify was a little white/pink thing that turned out to be called 'Cuckooflower', which made sense as I'd just heard a Cuckoo when I saw it! Apparently it flowers around the same time as the Cuckoo starts calling, hence its name. And I recently learned that this particular flower is the food plant of the Orange Tip butterfly, so it's great to know that we're contributing to our biodiversity by having this plant here.
In fact, the wide range of wildflowers here really does help - you only needed to see how many different types of bees there were around the other week when we had those few days of sun, busily going from flower to flower whilst they had the chance. I love bees. I could watch them for ages. Did you know that a bee can visit between 50-100 flowers in one trip? And that each trip can be 1-3 km? And that in one day a bee can travel a total of 15 km? Amazing. If you love bees too or just want to find out more about them, why not come along to Ashway Gap on Saturday July 7th when, as part of our BioBlitz, our Date With Nature Assistant will be running some great bee-related activities - and you never know, you might find one we didn't know we had! And whilst you're at it let us know what plants the bees are on and help us beat that 170 from last year! See you at BioBlitz, Saturday 7th July!