Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Day Flying Bats at Wilton Brail

Having a week off in November isn't something I'd planned but so far it is a great way to prevent the onset of those winter blues. On Sunday a friend and I headed off to the Somerset Levels in less than exciting weather but seeing 50+ Snipe at the RSPB's Greylake reserve is a sight I'll never forget.

But today I woke to deep blue skies, some mist, but a severe frost, in deepest Wiltshire. This area of Wiltshire just south of Savernake Forest is a bit of a cold spot. Leaving the house at 8am this morning to take Molly the cat to the vets, the temperature gauge on the car glowed a bracing minus 3. Cold enough for me thank you. Molly didn't look too chuffed either.

After the vets Julie and I did a few chores and a coffee in the Polly Tea rooms in Marlborough, before Julie went to work leaving me to fill in a few hours before Molly had to be collected.

So I headed off to Wilton Brail. This is a piece of open access woodland between home and Great Bedwyn. By now the sun was up and there was some heat in those rays, meaning the frost of the morning had gone, well except where the sun didn't reach.

Leaving the car by the road I walked up the track. A few birds were floating about, including a strange looking bird flitting between the tree tops in the above photograph. It's flight was odd and fluttery, like that of a bat. I got the binoculars out and lo and behold it was indeed a bat. This was about 12.30 pm and quite remarkable. I did attempt a photo but failed completely, so positive identification was problematic, but my money is on a Noctule. It is late in the season for this species to be flying, even if I ignored the fact it was flying mid day, the size, flight pattern and habitat all point that way. I just wish I'd had a better view. Exciting though.

That excitement over I continued the walk. The weather could not have been better. Clear blue skies, no wind and with a strong sun, ample photo opportunities to try and capture the light through the trees.

The view back towards Bedwyn Brail on the hill, where the plaintiff drone of a chainsaw emanated.

Photographs never do justice to an atmospheric image in real life.

Anyway I eventually reached an area where a ride had been opened up. I walked this route in September and it was dark and brooding. But today with a 10 meter ride having been opened recently the sunlight flooded in. As I walked I heard the familiar jangling call of common crossbills flying overhead, 7 in all. Not that surprising as Savernake Forest just a few miles away has a resident population. Also flying nearby calling was a raven.

I like this walk. The woods aren't too sizable but it is quite varied. The photograph below was taken with my back towards a field. A short hop and skip over that field and I'd be at the Kennet and Avon canal. A circular route therefore could be woodland, fields, canals and back through woodland. I may post this one day.

And being on the northern edge of the wood, frost remained where the sun didn't shine.

All too soon I had to retrace my steps and back to the car for a 5 minute drive home and a welcome cup of tea. Julie then returned, we picked up Molly from the vets and all is well. So as holidays go it may not be a World trip, but very relaxing and in today's glorious weather, very, very enjoyable. I'm enjoying myself.

And briefly to finish this posting a link to the latest Living World I produced, Native Hedgerows. Rob Walton was the contributor and with the presenter Lionel Kelleway provided a wonderful programme. This went out on Sunday, but was then also featured on Radio 4's Pick of the Week, which was very exciting. Well it was for me, because it was picked by a presenter as a highlight of the weeks radio.

Link to Living World Hedgerows here

Link to Sunday's Pick of the Week here (link may go soon)


  1. A most enjoyable post Andrew and lovely photos. Just the sort of walk I enjoy. How odd seeing a bat in the middle of the day! Some years ago I used to frequently see them flying around the house as it was getting dark but sadly I haven't seen them for a long time.

    I have also just thoroughly enjoyed your Native Hedgerows programme, excellent stuff and well done on being selected for Pick of the Week. You might be interested in seeing some nice photos of Dormice on a blog I follow, I hasten to add the author does have a licence to handle them, here is the link which you may need to copy and paste into your address bar if it isn't highlighted:


    Make sure you scroll to the end of the post as there are more Dormice photos at the bottom.

  2. Great post Andrew with some lovely atmospheric photos. Looks and sounds a beautiful walk.

    Your Living World Programme on Native Hedgerows was really excellent - great to hear of thriving dormice. Also a good reminder of how important hedgerows are and what a great habitat they are if you look closely. It thoroughly deserved to be selected for Pick of the Week - well done.

  3. Thanks for the link to Greenie shysongbird, a good blog which I'll keep an eye on.

    Tanks for the comment Ragged Robin - we should all celebrate what this country has in it's countryside.