Friday, 24 October 2014

Think I'm going Batty!

Anthony McKeown and Angelena Efstathiou setting up the harp trap

I've never really given much thought about British bats, partly because I rarely see any and, being a photographer, they are a tricky subject to get naturally (not factoring in the licence issues). So when I was invited to come along on a bat survey I jumped at the chance to see some of our winged little friends.

Putting it in a clearing where the bats are likely to fly

To be able to monitor the bats you need to catch them so you measure, weigh and assess the health of a population as well as seeing which species are around (we have 17 resident in the UK). The use of a harp trap, which is harmless to the bat, is used. They fly into fishing line and trail down into a bag where they are then collected and data is processed.

Different frequencies attract different species of bat

A acoustic bat lure is used, having a silver spinner and bat sounds played to attract them into the trap.

'A Soprano in the hand is worth two in the roost'

The most common species we caught was the Soprano Pipistrelle, which up until 1997 was classed as the same species as the common pipistrelle, the most common bat in the UK and the one you're most  likely to see in towns and cities around street lamps.

Lorna Griffiths with a Soprano Pipistrelle

The use of gloves is used so disease can't be passed from bat to person and vice versa. One thing I quickly realised was how small they are, weighing less than a £1 coin.

Special scales are used as the bats are so light

They get cold very quickly so the whole process of capture, weighing and release can be done in under 5 minutes.

Vital data collected

We were doing this survey under the license for the Nathusius Pipistrelle Pilot Project which is involving a small number of bat groups, project leaders being Daniel Hargreaves and the Bat Conservation Trust's Kate Barlow. Matt Cook from our group is the licensed worker for harp and lures.

Sharp teeth used for eating various insects including mosquitos and midges

My favourite capture of the night has to be this little chap, the Natterers Bat, which has slightly longer ears than the pipistrelles.

Natterers Bat in Matt Cook's hand

Five Bat Facts

  • A group of bats is called a 'colony'
  • Bats hang upside down for two reasons: they can get high up and away from their predators and enemies; by just turning loose and flapping their wings they get 'instant flight'
  • A young bat is called a 'pup'
  • Bats hibernate or migrate to warmer climes in the winter
  • The largest bat in the UK is the Noctule, weighing 40g and a wingspan of up to 40cm

If you would like to know more about bats in Nottinghamshire check out

Or nationally you can get in touch with the Bat Conservation Trust

BBC Wildlife Local Patch Reporter
Jack Perks

Facebook: Jack Perks Photography

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Theres nothing better then being up early to see sights like this 

So i went down to Richmond a few days ago to do a talk on Underwater Photography to Richmond Sub Aqua Club which was a good bit of fun and was hosted in a pub which always makes the speaking interesting! While in the area i decided to get up early and head to Richmond Park to see the Red Deer Stags begin the rut!

You can almost forgets its in London 

Despite living quite close to a deer park in Nottingham i'd never seen deer roar or rut before so was a new experience for me and one i immensely enjoyed. After the glorious sunrise the light went a bit flat but i still went looking for more deer action.

 All the shots are full frame so the animals are quite close!

The deer in the park are very used to people which allows for some unique shots that would be almost impossible in a more wild setting. I was still wary though as these are powerful animals and pumped full of testosterone ready for a fight and had to warn a couple of dog walkers to stay back.

One of the larger dominant stags 

The sound of a red deer roaring is like nothing else i've ever heard, its a primordial noise and over the sunrise seemed like i was in the Cretaceous. Richmond is often over run from wildlife photographers but i was quite surprised to see more deer then togs and had the herd largely to myself.

Almost thought they would start to rut but not quite

No antlers locked while i was there but lots of parallel walking, urinating and vegetation in antlers so would expect it to happen soon.

Top Photography Tips for Richmond Park

1. Get in early! the park is open from 7am so you get a good chance to get some sunrise deer shots.

2. Despite the deer being used to people i still used a long lens (70 - 300mm) rather then my usual choice of a fisheye which could of got messy with the stags.

3. Avoid weekends as the park will be a lot busier and more people to contend with.

4. Read the animals behaviour if its coming towards you slowly back off, see how they are reacting to each other and you can often guess when they are about to lock horns.

5. I opted to be low for most of the shoot to try and emphasise the size of the stags which pretty big (our largest land mammal)

My next blog will be on seals as i'm off to the farne islands diving with them and donna nook for seal pup births!

BBC Wildlife Local Patch Reporter
Jack Perks

Facebook: Jack Perks Photography