Two of the rarest mammals in the United Kingdom have been found at Drews Pond Wood Local Nature Reserve in Devizes, Wiltshire. Research led by Wiltshire Bat Group in 2015 made the ground-breaking discovery of Bechstein’s and Barbastelle bats, significantly elevating the conservation importance of this site which is owned by Wiltshire Council.
Gareth Harris, the vice county recorder for the Wiltshire Bat Group, successfully applied for a grid community award to buy additional monitoring equipment to support further study of these bats in Devizes. He will receive his award on Tuesday 14th July from Wessex Water’s field ecologies, James Mitchell. The GRID community award of £303.80 will enable the purchase of bat boxes for Drews Pond Wood.
Monitoring of bat populations in Drews Pond Wood is supported by Wiltshire Council and Stuart Hislop, Volunteer Coordinator of the Drews Pond Wood Project, which aims to enhance the Wood for people and wildlife through habitat management and education.
The Bechstein’s bat, Myotis bechsteinii, has been the focus of considerable conservation action in recent years by the Bat Conservation Trust and partner county bat groups across the UK. Wiltshire Bat Group commenced survey work across the county, resulting in the discovery of four new Bechstein’s bat sites and two new Barbastelle bat sites.
“The discovery of Bechstein’s and Barbastelle bats, along with nine other species of bat at Drews Pond Wood is of immense conservation importance” said Gareth. “These are two of our rarest bats in the UK and Europe. Research will continue enabling us to more fully understand how these and other species use Drews Pond Wood and neighbouring woodlands.”
“Radiotracking in May 2015 highlighted how the Barbastelle bat was foraging along the edge of Devizes town, utilising the dense hedgerows, pastures and woodlands between Devizes Castle and Drews Pond Wood LNR. Bats are excellent flag-ship species to study because they utilise a variety of habitats within the landscape. Conservation work for bats can benefit a range of other species in the landscape too,” says Gareth.
Stuart Hislop, lead volunteer for the woodland said “Education is central to the Drews Pond Wood Project – only if local communities understand and appreciate their local environment and wildlife can they really look after it for future generations. These findings further confirm that Drews Pond Wood is a biodiversity hotspot right on our doorstep.”
The grid community awards provide funds for projects that will help the environment and wildlife on land that is in the vicinity of Wessex Water’s new infrastructure engineering work. The new water supply grid will meet future demand and ensure security of supply to customers. The grid will enable Wessex Water to move water from areas of surplus to where it is needed to improve resilience to drought and unforeseen events.
The grid community awards and the Wessex Watermark Awards are organised by The Conservation Foundation, and all projects are judged by a panel chaired by its President - David Bellamy.
Bechstein's bat. Source: Wikimedia