This page is regularly updated with information about the project's progress.
What has the project been up to?
We are now at the end of our first summer of surveying. Between May and October, we have been deploying our SM2 bat detectors at randomly selected monitoring points every three weeks. With the help of volunteers, we have also been carrying out monthly transect surveys.
We will be spending the winter analysing this bat call data to help us to answer our key project questions around how bats use the woodland and what this can tell us about the impact of woodland management.
We have been sharing the wonderful world of bats with those local to Swanton Novers through bat walk events held at Swanton Novers woodland and the surrounding area. We've recruited volunteers to help us with our bat survey work and bat call analysis data. The involvement and upskilling of volunteers is a key part of the project. If you would like to learn more about volunteering opportunities please email our Volunteer Co-ordinator Sonia Reveley at SReveley@bats.org.uk
Swanton News will provide monthly updates about the project giving readers an opportunity keep abreast with what is happening. There will also be plenty of photographs of the reserve, showing off its rich biodiversity in all its glory and other photographs of interest. The project progress highlights can be found at the bottom of the page.
Additional Project Blogs
- First blog for the Bat Conservation Trust Blogspot
- Second blog for the Bat Conservation Trust Blogspot
As we come to the end of March, spring here at Swanton Novers NNR is definitely on the way. Over the last week, the wood anemones have started to flower, the bluebell leaves are emerging from the woodland ground and sections of the rides are carpeted with primroses. In addtion, the birds are singing merrily away, flitting from branch to branch and puddles and ponds have also been put to good use by frogs and can be found supporting clusters of gelatinous frog spawn - a sure sign that spring is on its way.
The static detectors were deployed twice this month and with the weather warming up we are starting to pick up some bat activity.
We have also been busy preparing for our Wild about Swanton Community and Wildlife Day which will be taking place at the Swanton Novers Village Hall on Saturday 6th of May 2017 from 10.30 am to 3 pm. More information about the event and the guided walks that we are running on the day can be found here.
Swanton Novers Great Wood in March -
This month, Norfolk has experienced the usual cold dull days but we have also been lucky enough to experience some lovely weather with blue skies, plenty of sunshine and birds singing merrily away in the background. The advantage of working on a site like Swanton Novers NNR at this time of the year is that we get to hear and see the woodland wake up, from the birds singing and chasing each other, to the buzzard circling above the canopy and the great spotted woodpecker drumming away in the distance. A quick glance at the data from February's deployment tells us that some bats are moving within the woodland interior, with barbastelle, myotis and soprano pipistrelle activity recorded.
Photographs from the camera traps:
Swanton Novers Great Wood in February -
On the 11th of January, we gave our third bat talk to 27 Year 4 pupils from the Bat class at Gayton Primary School. The talk went down well and was followed by many questions. An enjoyable afternoon was had by all and thank you to Gayton Primary School for inviting us.
Static detectors were successfully deployed in Great Wood and collected a couple of days later. At one of the points, within a compartment of mature oak trees, the detectors picked up some bat activity around 17.36, a soprano pipistrelle. Quite a surprising find. The soprano pipistrelle probably needed to move to another roost as the evenings here in Norfolk have been very cold, so not a lot of food around.
The camera traps continue to capture some excellent photographs of the reserve's wildlife. The trap left at a known badger sett recorded a lot of activity, not just from badgers, but also argumentative foxes, jays, inquisitive blackbirds, deer and grey squirrels. Here are some we have picked out:
Swanton Novers Great Wood in January -
Our second bat talk took place at All Saints Primary School in Stibbard, a school close to Swanton Novers Woods. 27 Year 1 pupils learnt about bats, the project and had a go at making some bat hats. We finished with a reading session and the book of choice was Bobby the Brown Long-Eared Bat.
The camera traps took a wonderful selection of photographs, from badgers, foxes, to jays and an inquisitive pheasant. Here are a few photographs:
Swanton Novers Great Wood in December -
We gave our first school bat talk to a group of Year 5 pupils from Fakenham Junior School. As they are only eight miles away from Swanton Novers NNR, the school were keen to learn about bats and about the project. The session was enjoyable and the interest it generated was noticeable. It was a great opportunity to introduce the project and talk about bats in detail. And the show of hands at the end of the talk was a sight to behold.
The second blog for the Bat Conservation Trust Blogspot has been uploaded. To read it click here.
Working in a woodland like Swanton Novers is a privilege. It is species rich and is a haven for wildlife. For those who venture into the woodland, there is every chance you might see a stripy badger or observe the silent flight of a barn owl. Therefore, though the project is focussed on bats, we thought it would be nice to capture images of some of our resident wildlife. To do this we are using camera traps which will allow us to take photographs throughout the day and night. These will be left in the woodland for a few nights and the plan will be to move these traps around the NNR regularly.
Here are some recent photographs:
Swanton Novers Great Wood in November -
In October we produced an article about the project for BCT's membership magazine Bat News and an article for the Parish Magazine covering Swanton Novers, Thornage, Brinningham, Brinton, Hunsworth and Stody.
We also attended the Wild about Norfolk Environmental and Conservation Fair at Easton College, an event which gives
local conservation and wildlife organisations an opportunity to showcase their work and educate interested parties about Norfolk's wonderful wildlife from bats to dragonfly nymph, woodlice and harvest mice.
We shared a room with the Norwich Bat Group, the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Services (NBIS) and the Norfolk Barbastelle Study Group. All had interesting and informative displays. Many including girl guides and brownies came to our stand asking questions about the project and about bats in general, while there was a mad rush by the brownies to make bat hats at the Norwich Bat Group stand. In total 1000 people came to Wild About Norfolk and Easton College have just announced that they will be hosting the event again next year on Saturday 7th of October.
We have recruited two more volunteers bringing our total number of volunteers up to twenty-one.
End of October meant we were back in Swanton to deploy the static detectors. At this time of the year, the woodland is looking pretty magnificent. The trees are slowly changing colour, providing splashes of reds, golds, yellows and browns throughout and the ground is covered with a variety of fungi from the red and white fly agarics to the yellow domes of the sulphur tuft.
Swanton Novers Great Wood in October -
September was a busy month. In addition to the deployment of the static detectors and the monthly transect surveys, we also ran two offsite bat walks (one in Holkham and one in Hoveton Broad), produced a poster for the National Bat Conference in York and delivered a call analysis training workshop to four volunteers.
The bat walk at Holkham was well attended with families joining us. The walk took us across open parkland, through a small patch of woodland and pass the lake. In total we heard five species of bats - common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, Daubenton's bat, noctule and barbastelle, and saw both common and soprano pipistrelles flying above our heads and feeding around the bank of the lake. The wonder on the children's faces when they saw their first bat was a delight to see and experience. As the evening progressed, it was satisfying to see how many participants were able to spot a pipistrelle bat and identify it using their detectors by listening to the sound, pitch and tone.
At Hoveton Broad, ten people came to the walk, which involved a boat trip to the broad on the Salhouse Ferry, and a walk around Hoveton Great Broad Trail. Activity around the trail was quiet but we did hear and see both common and soprano pipistrelles near the hides and when we arrived at the water's edge we saw a few soprano pipistrelles feeding over the water surface.
Swanton Novers Great Wood in September -
We ran our second bat walk at Swanton Novers NNR on the 20th of August to which eight people came to. Heavy gales the night before carried on into the next day and it was uncertain if the walk would go ahead. Luckily the winds dropped by the evening and we heard four species of bats - Natterer's bat, barbastelle, common pipistrelle and soprano pipistrelle, during our walk through the northern section of Great Wood. A member of our group was enthusiastically waving her detector up in the air whilst looking out for bats flying overhead. When she saw her first bat, her awe and infectious enthusiasm was a lovely reminder of why we run these events and how an opportunity to gain access to a hidden world can heighten our curiosity and our love for our wildlife.
We also ran our third trapping survey in the southern section of Great Wood, an area with compartments of active coppice. It was quiet in the wood, with little activity heard on the detectors. However, we caught a female barbastelle bat and a male common pipistrelle. As well as experienced bat workers assisting on the night, two more volunteers with limited experiences in catching bats were able to help out with the trapping session, and learn how to extract and process.
Swanton Novers Great Wood in August -
We ran our first call analysis training workshop in July. The training was a great opportunity for our volunteers to learn how to identify British bat calls using a call analysis software called BatSound. The software provides graphical images of the calls (sonograms), allowing us to look at the pulses in detail and then identify the calls. Two volunteers who started with no bat surveying skills came along to the call analysis training. As a result of the training both have taken some of the data from the transect surveys back home with them and are in the process of analysing them.
The summer newsletter containing updates, activities and information about the project was completed in July. Copies were sent out to schools and youth groups in Norfolk.
We ran our second trapping survey in Swanton Novers in the middle section of Great Wood. Trapping allowed us to catch bats and identify them in the hand in parts of the woods where we have recorded activity from barbastelle bats (a rare woodland specialist and one of our key woodland species) and myotis bats (a family of bats whose calls are similar and need to be seen close up to identify to species). A licence is required to do a trapping survey and the information collected will support the data from the transect surveys and static detectors.
Nets were strung across rides in appropriate locations and a harp trap was left in the interior of a compartment nearby. Activity in the wood was quiet. Two female barbastelles and one male brown long-eared bat were caught in the nets. The harp trap however was more successful catching one male Natterer's bat, one male brown long-eared bat, two female common pipistrelles and one female soprano pipistrelle.
The trapping session was also an opportunity for two volunteers to join the team and help out. Both didn't have any trapping surveying experience. They learnt how the nets are erected and how bats are extracted and processed.
Swanton Novers Great Wood in July -
In June a blog introducing the project was written up for the Bat Conservation Trust Blogspot page.
Transect surveys were carried out with help from our band of enthusiastic volunteers which is slowing growing. We now have fourteen volunteers helping us with the bat surveys.
Static detectors were deployed as usual. One volunteer with no bat survey skills assisted with the deployment and collection of the detectors, learning more about the monitoring methodology and our aims.
Swanton Novers Great Wood in June -
The transect surveys in May coincided with the emergence of the cockchafer beetles (also known as May bugs), which provided a feast for the serotines and noctules emerging from the woods and a feeding frenzy was observed by the lucky surveyors. The survey was also an opportunity to show three new volunteers how to carry out a transect survey and how to use a detector. These three volunteers had no bat surveying experience, and were paired up with volunteers who already had some bat surveying skills.
We also had our project launch on Saturday 28th of May at the village hall in Swanton Novers, to which sixteen people came to. The evening started at 6pm with a talk about the project by the Volunteer Co-ordinator, an introduction to bats by Helen Miller, Woodland Officer at Bat Conservation Trust, and an insight into Swanton Novers Woods by Ash Murray, Senior Reserve Manager at Natural England. This was followed by tea and cake and a brief training workshop giving everyone a chance to listen to different bat calls.
To finish off the evening we went for a walk in the woods with our bat detectors to see what we would hear and see. On approaching the edge of the woods just after sunset we stopped to get our bearings and were treated to a front row view of serotines and noctules emerging out of the woods to feed on the insects flying around.
We also ran our first trapping survey at Swanton Novers. We caught and identified one female barbastelle bat, two female brown long—eared bats, one male common pipistrelle and one male soprano pipistrelle. Catching female bats (who have higher demands than males during the summer season) indicates that the woodland is good quality habitat.
Swanton Novers Great Wood in May -
Project Progress - The Highlights