Monday, 28 May 2012

The night shift

On my way to yoga class this evening I called at Salthouse Heath. No nightingale sang; I’ve resigned myself, I think, to not seeing one at all this year, as the leaves are now thick on the trees and in a few days’ time the nightingales will sing no more this spring. By way of consolation two turtle doves purred, yellowhammers filled the heath with reedy rhythms and a small copper - butterfly bling! - fed at a creeping buttercup's bloom.

In the warmth of dusk tonight, Leanne and I set out along the river, detector in hand, in search of bats. Just a few steps from our doors we heard the high, insistent pssst of a woodcock (exactly the same, in case you’re ever in the Valles Mesotérmicos, as the call of the endemic Bolivian earthcreeper). Several woodcocks pssst-ed past before at last I saw one for a moment as he disappeared behind a stand of poplars.

Bats too were tricky, though in the last light we saw one soprano pipistrelle fluttering and quivering over shrubby sallows at the river’s edge. Many more of these we heard around the tall crack willows by the bridge; and behind our houses, as I'd had a hunch it would, our bat detector caught the juddering drill of Daubenton’s. We peered at the moonlit water as the bat juddered by, again, again and again, but nothing could we see, until I had a moment’s glimpse of a silver-bellied being slicing the water’s surface. The poorest of poor views but enough for me to count it on my list: Daubenton’s bat.

It makes me smile to think I have a creature fifty yards from my back door named after the same man as the aye-aye: Daubentonia madagascariensis. Perhaps I’ll see one of those too when I spend six weeks in Madagascar this autumn.

A glimpse would be quite enough.

New tonight


soprano pipistrelle
Pipistrellus pygmaeus
Daubenton’s bat
Myotis daubentonii


Eurasian woodcock
Scolopax rusticola

2012 Totals
Mammals: 59
Birds: 462
Reptiles: 14
Amphibians: 6
Fish: 4

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