Malham Tarn Day 2: June 7th
Beautiful sunshine came through our window at 5 am. I got up at 7am and decided to go for a morning run along the forest, through to the Fen. I bumped into Prof Altringham on the way too! It was such a perfect morning for a jog, and along the way, a family of Partridges scattered off into the rape seed oil fields as I approached, as well as a rabbit that sprinted ahead of me. The gorgeous trills and bird sounds filled earthy smelling air. I felt so relaxed and at peace, all the stress of the exams melting away.
Much of the day was spent preparing our experiment, looking at how pollinator behaviour is influenced by colour, patch distribution and UV. Our rather rudimentary sticks with coloured discs on them were suppose to resemble them. Once we had set up our quadrats and 1x1m patches, we set to work with making the different colours, placing them, and finally counting the number of pollinator visits.
It got a little tedious after a while, staring at discs for several hours, but luckily we had breaks in between. Towards late afternoon, we all gathered in the lab to select our mini skills workshops, I got in line last but fortunately no one had selected this evening for the bat trapping! I was very excited at the prospect of finally getting the chance to see and handle some. Dinner was a 6, which as great to chat to new people and find out about their projects as well as passions. Food was rather meaty, by the end of the week I was craving anything green!
At 7:30pm I met up with Dr Anita Glover who was to take us down to the two boathouses and show us how to set up the harp nets. I also met the lovely Emily, Leah and Tom who also got the bat project! This is when I found out that I was going to be working on bats with Prof Altringham and Dr Glover for my final year dissertation! I can’t tell you how excited I was! Later that evening I was also fortunate to see a marvelous little tree creeper scuttling up an oak tree, my first as we walked down to set up the harp nets. I can tell you the waders were exceedingly flattering.
I was to wade in the tarn with Anita to help prop up the metal frame consisting of two frames of fine meshes to trap the bats. A white bag directly beneath the frames would ensure anything caught would be safely collected at the bottom. I much prefer them to mist nets, which I believe to be more damaging or stressful.
but it was so worth it. It was a really weird sensation getting into the water with waders, which seem to suck in with the pressure. We set up two by the eastern boat house. The view more than made up for the midge mob, but I was ever hopeful that we would catch something. We then set up another one by the western boathouse, then waited till 10:30pm. The first set up area unfortunately revealed nothing, but the western boathouse had caught two Daubenton´s! When the bat detector was switched on you could hear the cracking and clicking, even bubbling sounds emanating from the net. Anita handled them with great care as she removed them from the bad, and placed them into smaller ones around her neck. We decided it was a Daubentons based on the key we were given, but I was surprised at how small and delicate they were.
Later we caught a pregnant Soprano Pipistrelle which I got to release, it was a really elegant and delicate creature; the bat is such an incredible evolutionary quirk. I felt awful though because the poor thing fell straight out of my hands! Anita did the same as we continued to try and release her. She needed to be warmed up so Anita returned her to the pouch.
Our identification key and a Daubenton (Myotis daubentonii) with its fold of skin it uses to trap insects on the go, over lakes, streams and ponds. Fast food on the go!
Daubenton´s wing. You can see how fine and appreciate how delicate it is. A small mite was found on its right wing membrane. Good indicator of how infested colonies are.
The Soprano Pipistrelle I got to release. She was certainly feisty! Amazing to think they carry a single small pup and can fly.
Throughout the night, we walked between the two set up sites to see what we had caught. Three bats made me feel rather lucky, and at 2:30am when we had finished removing the traps, I returned to bed feeling jubilant- dreaming of Pip´s and Daub´s…a FAR better way to spend an evening and late night!
Here are the videos on day 5 of our group releasing some Pip’s, was an incredible experience, the second time I got to release these incredible flying mammals.