Friday, 6th August 2010

This Friday evening I did something different. Rather than sleep in a cosy bed I went out to wander in the dark and wetness of a rainy fen. Welney WWT centre were having a bat and barn owl evening where you wander round with a guide learning about bats and barn owls. The closest we got to owls were their pellets, impressively sized. On bats we had more luck. Pipistrelles were darting around the centre as we arrived. In one of the lookout points they had an infrared camera set up and you could see Daubentons flitting over the surface of the pond, and pipistrelles higher up. Pipistrelles need to eat their own body weight each night in insects, 3000 worth - rather them than me.

To help us detect bats the guides handed out bat detectors which turn the bat ultrasonics into more audible frequencies - though it seemed we were hearing insects more than flying mammals. The centre also had a number of moth traps around - light traps and scent traps (the scent was red wine mixed with sugar.) There are zillions of kinds of moths, so much so the names lack a little imagination. Buff ermine, poplar hawk moth, lesser red underwing, etc.

The evening wasn't a complete success. The rain didn't help, and no newts were visible in the ponds. But it was something different and there quite a range of people on it. Chatted with one guy who came fully prepared in long waterproofs, infra-red camcorder, and fancy torch.

The centre is out in the Fens, and it was a long drive to get there, particularly as it was dark and I was unsure of the way, and the roads were half-hearted. At one stage I found myself pursued by a farm vehicle in the night - its lights were like a dragon's breath hot on my neck!