Birds and the Bees (and the Bats!) (Part 30)

Martin & Mandy

We have mentioned the bats a couple of times in our last articles about the tower roof... We’ve had a lot of help from Southern Ecological Solutions regarding the bats - you may yet see them and the Causeway on the telly - there was film crew there from “Britain’s Empty Homes” doing a piece on how easy it is to work with an ecologist or bat inspector.

Published VersionWell, anyone who has spoken to us about our experiences with bat inspectors will know that our original bat inspector (let’s call him Mr Smith) was a complete nightmare. Mr Smith was difficult to contact, would not share information, lacked basic social skills like the ability to be polite, and treated us like the enemy, when all we wanted to do was learn about bats so that we could do the best job of ensuring that our new home was still able to be their home too. So, we had to replace Mr Smith for the sake of our sanity!

I contacted Stuart and Matt at Southern Ecological Solutions and they couldn’t have been more different... Stuart has advised us in the build of the garage to ensure that we are providing some alternative snoozing sites for the bats while all this commotion is going on, and for the future. He has also helped us with the design and construction of the tower roof to ensure that the cute little chaps have somewhere to stay. We don’t have any rare bats on site, but even the common bats are protected so we need to make sure our little pipistrelles and brown long eared bats are looked after. (The picture of the bats was drawn by Richard Lewington who kindly allowed us to use the picture for this article.) Published Version

So in the new garage there are specialised ‘bat access tiles’ which allow them to get into the roof space, roosting boxes in that roof space, ‘bat bricks’ which provide them with somewhere to hibernate. Also on the south gable end you will see something that’s about the size of a small dustbin - this is also a roosting box (made out of a sort of concrete material - it was entertaining getting that up there). Because of Southern Ecological Solutions we will certainly have more roosting sites when we’ve finished than we did when we started!

They have also helped us with siting some interesting bird boxes which we’re hoping will get populated. Stuart, who in an alternative life likes tree climbing, even managed to get an owl box near to the top of one of the trees in the North West corner of the plot. It’s right in the line of sight of the cctv camera in the weathervane and on full zoom the entrance to the owl box is full screen in the picture, so we hope to be able to put some impressive pictures up on the website if we’re lucky enough to attract an appropriate resident.

The owl box is huge in comparison to the little bird boxes put up elsewhere on the site, and has caused much interest to our feathered friends - I have been most amused by the little blue tits eyeing it up as a potential home – a little ambitious perhaps!

Published VersionWe have run into a whole pile of feathered inhabitants of the site whilst we’ve been working there, but a couple of really quite cool ones have been noticed. I had to look both of them up, but Mandy assured me that we had had one of them in our garden at home - but had to eat her words when she saw it - we have ‘Great Spotted Woodpeckers’ in our garden - but there is a ‘Lesser Spotted Woodpecker’ at St Bartholomew’s. Apparently this is the smallest and least common of the three woodpeckers we have in England, and there’s estimated to be less than 3000 breeding pairs in the whole of the country, so having seen Mrs Woodpecker we’re keen to know if there’s a Mr Woodpecker around too...

The other bird we’ve spotted is apparently much more common – but neither of us had ever seen one before – a ‘Tree Creeper’. This is a very small bird, very active and lively, with quite a piping song… The name must come from its habit of going up the trunk of the tree looking for insects in the bark that it picks out with its tiny curved beak.Published Version

We are looking forward to receiving the final report from Southern Ecological Solutions – they have promised to include advice on how to look after and improve the site for the benefit of all the local wildlife – not just our lovely little bats. Mind you – bats don’t have the prettiest faces in some people’s view – someone I showed a picture to responded with “Cor dear, only a mother could love that!”.

Finally this month - a personal request - could you have a dig through your old family photographs to see if you have any of the church hidden away? We have a few that people have kindly let us make copies of theirs - including one of a wedding that took place on a snowy day at St Bartholomew’s - but we would love to see more, so get up in the loft and take a little trip down memory lane.