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News in brief: bats, dormice & butterflies



Hampshire Bat Evening …
Our ‘Bat Evening’ in late July began with a leisurely 2-hour stroll at Noar Hill and a chance to enjoy its chalk downland flora. The smell of Marjoram, Basil and Thyme was everywhere, whilst Pyramidal Orchid, abundant Musk Orchids, Clustered and Nettle-leaved Bellflowers and Autumn Gentian were among other highlights. Our group then set off for the Basingstoke Canal, a nationally important site for bats, armed with a range of bat detectors! Common Pipistrelles, Natterer’s, Daubenton’s and Brown Long-eared were among the first bats identified, and a walk along the canal bank allowed the group to pick up the next species, a large Noctule Bat. As they walked our group was able to enjoy the rare treat of a near-continuous soundtrack picked up on five bat detectors, indicating that hundreds of bats were present around them, the commonest being Pipistrelles and Soprano Pipistrelles, with Daubenton’s and Serotine also in the mix of calls identified. As they neared the tunnel mouth another distinctive call was picked up on the bat detectors which was thought to be a Leisler’s Bat. Equally rare, though not very attractive to look at, was the floating liverwort Ricciocarpus natans which grows in the waters of the canal here! All in all, it was a very successful evening, with 7 (possibly 8) species of bat seen/detected!

Our next ‘Hampshire Bat Evening’ will be on Friday 22nd July 2016. Contact Paul Stanbury on 01962 733051 or email to reserve a place or find out more.

Dormouse Day …
The Hazel (or ‘Common’) Dormouse is undoubtedly one of Britain’s most endearing mammals. With golden-brown fur, huge eyes and very long tail it has a reputation for being somewhat sleepy in demeanour – unsurprising considering that it hibernates for approximately half the year! Due to loss of habitat, populations of the Hazel Dormouse have become fragmented in recent years, and efforts are being made to provide ‘corridors’ connecting key habitat and populations of dormice. This, combined with the fact dormice spend so much of their lives asleep, and being nocturnal, mean that it can be quite a challenge to actually see one! In July this year, local expert James Andrews led our Dormouse Day which goes in search of Dormice and other small mammals. Despite the fact that the Dormouse Day took place on one of the wettest days this summer, our group learnt about efforts to survey and conserve Dormice, and looked for discarded nests, managing to find one quite high up in a tree. The whole group had very close encounters with a Wood Mouse, as well as a male Dormouse. Other highlights included seeing Bird’s-nest and Pyramidal Orchids and Woolly Thistle, Common Frogs and some of the group saw one of the local Muntjac scrumping crab apples!
Our next ‘Dormouse Day’ will be on Friday 22nd July 2016. Contact Dave Shute on 01962 733051 or email to reserve a place or find out more.

In Italy …
Our two September trips to Abruzzo National Park provided some exciting mammal sightings. A European Wolf pack had chosen an area of trees in the valley by our usual watch point as a rendezvous: a safe place for the pups while the adults are away hunting. On most occasions that our group visited over the two weeks, they were able to watch some of the pups sitting in the sun, sleeping, wandering around and playing. Sometimes the Wolf pups were accompanied by one or more adults and, one morning, the mother collected her family of five, and took them up the slope to feed in the shelter of other trees. Our groups also had some great views of Marsican Brown Bear, with a mother and cub, and two single females being seen on several occasions. With the hillsides echoing to the bellowing of Red Deer, wonderfully close views of Abruzzo Chamois, sounders of Wild Boar, soaring Golden Eagles and Griffon Vultures, carpets of Cyclamen in the dramatic Sagittario Gorge, plus wonderful hospitality from hosts Geraldine and Marco at our hotel, these trips were truly memorable!

The next departure of our 8-day Abruzzo in Autumn holiday is on Thursday 15th September 2016. Contact Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email for more information.

In Spain …
Despite prolonged drought conditions preceding our tour, our July ‘Butterflies & Moths of the Spanish Pyrenees’ group managed to locate some good stands of Scabious, Dwarf Elder and Hemp-agrimony which attracted the hoped-for ‘clouds’ of Lepidoptera. During the week more than 90 species of butterfly were recorded, together with many dazzling day-flying moths and other invertebrates. Nightly moth-trapping gave us an insight into the nocturnal species present, though the ‘catch’ was dominated by Pine Processionaries. Good numbers of the beautiful and bizarre  were also seen including Big-Oak Hawk-moth, Sussex Emerald and the Lackey moth (Malacosoma neustria). Stunning scenery, dawn-to-dusk sunshine, warm weather, and wonderful food, drink and accommodation combined with the wildlife to make for a most enjoyable holiday!

The next two departures of our 8-day Butterflies & Moths of the Spanish Pyrenees holiday are on Wednesday 6th July and Wednesday 13th July 2016 respectively. Contact Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email for more information.