Saturday, 6 April 2013

Gatwick’s Batman

This relentless cold has actually given us an opportunity to continue with some extra conservation and habitat works. On Tuesday we did some checking of the bat roosting and hibernation boxes in the Land East of the Railway Line with Martyn Cooke of Surrey Bat Group.

Slightly precarious and higher than it looks!
                                    
We rediscovered 32 bat boxes of 5 different types in the woodlands and hedgerows. Martyn also happens to be an Air Traffic Controller and Deputy Watch Manager airside at Gatwick and has a wealth of knowledge about the history of our conservation sites here. He spends much of his free time carrying out different bat surveys around Surrey as well as further afield.

  Bat control to Major Martyn 

Armed with a big ladder, an old toothbrush (for cleaning out any debris) and cheery volunteer ecologist Katie M., we sludged our way through muddy woodlands finding the trees which had been marked on our map. After noting down the different box types and checking their condition we gave them a scrub out with the toothbrush removing built up dirt. (Actually Katie and Martyn did, I bemoaned my back problems and helpfully watched/got distracted by other species.)

Bat box type 2FN

 Timber ridges inside the hibernation box for bats to hang onto. No bats today, instead this impressive specimen which is not only to be found in human houses... a Giant House Spider Tegenaria gigantea

Although the boxes were all empty on this occasion Martyn is very hopeful that the bats will be using them in future and our activity surveys in the summer should tell us more about which species are currently occurring. The Surrey Bat Group runs one of the largest county bat box monitoring schemes with over 600 boxes at 20 sites. If anyone would like to know more about bats, surveys and events conducted by SBG then click here: Surrey Bat Group Events

A close up of our friendly neighbourhood House Spider, Tegenaria gigantea

Blue Tit or Great Tit egg, abandoned in a box from the previous year 

A cute little Bark Sac Spider, Clubiona corticalis

This funky orange fungus is a dried out specimen of Yellow Brain, Tremella mesenterica

I am trying to collate all of the current and historical biological records for Gatwick, with the help of ecological consultancies, local naturalists and the Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre. The aim is to get all species data in one place so that we can see how things have changed, and believe me there is a lot of it!