There’s a lot going on in our garden. It’s full of flowers, shrubs, trees and weeds. There's old tree stumps, a copper tub full of water, bird feeders, a compost heap and veg patches. We have a patio, hedges, gravel, stone walls, oh – and a bit of lawn! We see a lot of garden birds, we have bumblebee nests, there are slow worms and I’ve spotted dragonflies I can’t identify. The garden isn’t even particularly big! However, with all this going on, it’s actually hard to know who else is living here…
I was intrigued to know if - in amongst it all - there were other, fluffier visitors.
I got involved with the North Somerset Bat Survey, run by the Bat Conservation Research Lab at the University of the West of England. Volunteers were allocated an area of land and an audio detector to record within it. Happily, our garden fell within my allocated area so I got to contribute to the project, alongside hopefully discovering mammal life close to home.
After six days of 24hr recording, I uploaded a memory card full of excitement and waited for the results to appear.
I was totally delighted to scroll through days of data with thousands of instances of the detector being triggered by animal sounds. A platform called BTO Acoustic Pipeline uses technology to identify the species, and provides a rating of how confident you can be in each identification. Thanks to this, I now know the following furries are almost definitely frequenting our garden:
Brown Long-eared bat
Common Pipistrelle bat
Soprano Pipistrelle bat
Lesser Horseshoe bat
Serotine, Lesser Horseshoe and Natterer are all supposedly less common in Somerset, so that was delightful to discover. Pipistrelles are the most common and I love seeing their tiny, round bodies flitting about early-evening, accompanying their equally-early Serotine companions. I had no idea we’re also hosting Brown long-eared bats, Daubenton’s, Lesser horseshoes, Natterers or Noctules. The Daubenton’s and Lesser horseshoes, I’ve learnt, probably came over from their roosts in Leigh Woods. The adorable wood mouse and common shrew must get a mention – there is nothing cuter than a shrew and it’s a good indication of the garden’s biodiversity aka, lots of bugs for dinner.
The location of our garden probably has a lot to do with the bat activity. It’s situated downhill from woodland, there’s a derelict building next door and a few old houses with wonky roof tiles surrounding it. We’re also near to some street lamps and a stream. All these features are sought out by bats as either roost-sites, or good spots to hunt insects.
In addition, the data suggested that we were maybe also visited by: brown rats, Eurasian pygmy shrews, a Eurasian harvest mouse and a whiskered bat!
I’ve certainly heard rats in our roof(!) so it's probable they’re spending some brief time in the garden, on their way to superior accommodation… Whiskered bats are apparently uncommon in Somerset. Could this be a rare individual? Or perhaps an impersonator?! I’d love the idea of a tiny harvest mouse in our garden, and am jealous of LANCE Trustees Amanda and Owen’s confirmed nest.
A special mention must go to a specific garden resident, whose noises set off the recorder thousands of times throughout the week. If you can imagine that the bats and rodents were about 1% of my data… a speckled bush cricket clearly had a lot to say, generating around 99% of the recordings!!