Our Patch: Things That Go Squeak in the Night

By on Tuesday, October 8, 2013

our_patch_sj_jarmanWednesday night, my walk on the wild side took me to Stadt Moers Park with Friends of Stadt Moers and Prescot Online’s own editor for a talk and walk about some elusive British mammals – bats.

stadt_moers_nightOn a warm and dry evening, Knowsley Rangers provided a short but informative talk explaining that bats, our only flying mammals, make up 25% of our mammalian species. Several species can be found at Stadt Moers, using heterodyne bat detectors to pick up the bats’ echolocation, as well as torches and our own eyes.

It was fantastic to see so many children there, and when we headed out to spot some bats, their excitement made the evening even more special.

frog_stadt_moersOn the way down the main path, a frog barred our way. With the aid of torches, we all managed not to step on it. It was quite a warty looking fellow, and had it not have been happily hopping along, I might have thought it was a toad. However, toads walk and do not have the dark mask which this bandit was wearing.

By both the railway bridge and the lake, we could hear the sensors indicating there were bats about, but the water was where we could actually see the most activity. It was a terrific experience for the practised and novice bat watchers alike.

pipistrelle_batWe saw and heard both Pipistrelle and Daubenton bats, which were flying so fast, just a glimpse was seen at any given time. My evening was made, though, by the sound of one young boy pointing and shouting, “I’ve spotted one!” – it just made my heart glad.

I can highly recommend spending some time with the knowledgeable rangers, should you get a chance to join in on one of their events, and to keep your eyes peeled for upcoming events by the Friends of Stadt Moers Park.

Another flying spectacle was over Edmund Arrowsmith Centre for Learning, just adjacent to Whiston Woods. I could hear a buzzard’s mewling call and looked up to see, not one, but three. They soared and performed aerial acrobatics for about 15 minutes (my son was NOT impressed with sharing the limelight, and jumped off the “very high bit of the rock” several times to regain my gaze).

I could only surmise that it was a pair of established birds, with a third being chased away, perhaps this year’s offspring being pushed into pastures new, or a bird looking for a territory being categorically denied on the grounds that this one is taken. Either way, seeing this territorial display of three very large birds of prey flying only five metres above, locked in battle and swearing at one another, is surely a sight to behold.

Wherever I’ve been walking this week I’ve noticed Jays. A firm familiar, their pinks, blues, black and white suggest some sort of rainforest dweller rather than a crow from the British woodland.

These birds are shy – but very easily seen in autumn, gathering and caching nuts for use over winter. Of all the birds people need help with identifying, this seems to be the one I am asked most frequently about. A glimpse of a large pink and blue bird just seems incongruous with our idea of drab British species, and their haranguing call (resembling a toddler’s temper tantrum or cats fighting) goes some way to explain the fear and superstition that still plague crows today.

moths2The sunshine over the weekend brought lawnmowers out – some maybe for the last time this year – and as a result we had lots of flying insects around.

As it was warm our windows were open and so as the nights drew in, a lot of moths made their way indoors. Moths, like bats, are numerous, but very difficult to see and identify in their nocturnal wanderings, so when they venture indoors it’s a great time to see and identify them.

mothThere are thousands of micro moths, but even experts can find them difficult to categorise, so we have a go at the slightly larger ones. Moth visitors, like very much of our wildlife, vary from season to season and habitat to habitat, so there is something of interest all year round; we must just wait to see who comes to us!

Featured image: Pipistrelle bat in flight (Barracuda1983)

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SJ, also known as Sarah and Sarah-Jane, held her dream job as a breastfeeding peer support worker until becoming a full-time mum of three. She still volunteers at Whiston Hospital.

In her spare time, SJ loves to read, and play cello with the Knowsley Youth Orchestra. She confesses to being a secret singer ever since hubby Trev bought her SingStar.

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