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Daubenton’s Bats at Nunnington, 11th July 2008

led by Michael Thompson, notes by Tom Denney

Following on from our very interesting springtime talk on Daubenton’s bats in the Yorkshire Dales, nine members led by Michael Thompson assembled by the River Rye at Nunnington at 8:30p.m. on 11th July. It was a grey and drizzly evening and Michael’s main worry was the river level, as nearly three inches of rain had fallen in the previous few days. Standing on the bridge, his concerns were evident as the river was showing a good spate of brown, upland water which would hamper the Daubenton’s bats’ feeding, as can be seen in this shot of the bridge the following morning.

Nunnington Bridge

Despite the overcast conditions we were rather too early for the bats, so Michael gave us a stimulating introduction to the world of bats and his involvement with them, and his study of them over many years. As he told us of combining his night-time hobby with a rural GP’s role near York, one felt that there was excellent material here for a “Herriot”-type book – Michael is already an established author having published papers on his bat studies, and Al Mashrek, a travel journal in the Levant.

Our main reason for being by the river was to see Daubenton’s bats, but Michael was also sure we would see Pipistrelles and maybe Brown Long Eared or Noctules. As no bats appeared by the main road bridge, we went west through the village to the wooden bridge leading to the fields. Here we overlooked a quieter stretch of water; still no bats were about but it was pleasing to see a spotted flycatcher which made a brief foray from the bridge parapet. It was evident that there were plenty of insects about from the hunting swallows and martins, and the many swifts. Apparently Noctules, which are quite large bats, overlap with feeding swifts in late evening, and it is always worth taking a look at swifts at twilight to see if they have been joined by more fluttery Noctules. Unfortunately we had no luck with bats here, so returned through the village to the main bridge, taking a close look at an orchard on the way to see if we could see any Long Eared bats foraging among the trees.

Once back at the bridge we were finally rewarded for our patience by getting good, close views of Daubenton’s as they emerged from under the arches to feed fairly high over the water – perhaps not as low as usual because of the state of the stream. They were also joined by Pipistrelles, smaller bats but comparison of size is difficult in poor light conditions – that both bats were present was confirmed by Michael’s bat detector which identified the Pipistrelles as sopranos. Michael, with the aid of the detector, has done annual surveys of the Daubenton’s population on the Rye at Nunnington which have shown that they are doing well, and this is one of their best sites in North Yorkshire. We were glad to end such an enjoyable evening hearing this news and having seen the evidence for ourselves. Tom thanked Michael for leading such a rewarding trip.
[Ed: – just before the heavens opened.]

Nunnington Bridge
Another view of the bridge; the bats were flying circuits through the arches [Ed.]

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© Ryedale Natural History Society 2008; photos © Tom Denney 2008