Saturday, 14 September 2013

Bats and reeds at Wissey Wetland

 Nick Carter, Conservation Officer (Fens)

I decided to sign up the Wissey Wetland for the Norfolk Bat Survey, partly to increase coverage in the Fens and partly to learn more about the bat species using the developing wetland sites. The survey involves setting up an unmanned bat detector overnight in three locations, at least 200m apart, in the same 1km square. As the Hilgay Wetland covers one square and the Methwold site a neighbouring square we would get 6 nights of bat data at the end of August/early September. I was fortunate that two volunteers, Darren and Alison Williams, live locally to the sites and were able to move the detector each day.  Many thanks to them for helping out with the survey.

I had barely got back to my office after delivering the detector back to the BTO when the results were emailed through to me. Although we had done bat surveys on the sites before, the detector had recorded three species not found in the earlier surveys: barbastelle and whiskered (although difficult to completely exclude Brandt’s bat at current time) bats, both relatively uncommon in Norfolk, and unexpectedly Nathusius’ Pipistrelle, only recently recorded in Norfolk and with only a few records in the Fens. We hope to repeat the survey annually to see how the bat community changes as the wetland sites develop. It is too late take part this year but if you feel you would like to take part in future years then check out the website at to see if your 1km square is already being covered.

Reed planting, organised by Adam Pimble from the Hickling Team, has been going well at Hilgay, despite the generally dry conditions. A professional team of planters led by Kev Dowe has been busy aiming to reach their target of 40,000 reed plugs planted in a month. In addition, we have had two corporate days with volunteers from Atkins and Environment Agency erecting protective cages and planting reeds. The hot, dry weather has not only been hard on the reeds it also makes the planting uncomfortable. Despite this the two teams have managed to plant a further 7,000 reeds, mostly in the storage lagoon. As I write the weather is turning cooler and wetter which will be good for reed establishment.  Although the abstraction system is now installed a minor leak has been detected. This will have to be rectified before we can start abstracting water from the River Wissey to secure the survival of the reeds over the winter.

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