Meadow yellow

Meadow yellow
Bulbous Buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus) in a Devon meadow

Thursday, 20 October 2011

A bat fan-attic!

One of the early delights of moving to Devon this summer was watching bats flying around our barn and those of our neighbours. I wondered if any roosted in our building and if so, where had they found to reside. As far as I was concerned they were very welcome, having held a lifelong fascination in these curious creatures.

Before we moved into our new home our surveyor had provided a very satisfactory report, with only a few minor defects noted. One of these was a seemingly faulty extract fan in the downstairs toilet. This soon became apparent when I tested it after moving in – however I then became distracted with general moving and settling into our new home - anyway the doors were open much of the time and so ventilation not a key issue. However the weather acutely reminded us this week that it is autumn, requiring us to make more use of mechanical ventilation. This then tied in yesterday with an unpleasant surprise in the downstairs toilet! A steady drip seemed to be coming from the dodgy ventilation unit. Initially I wondered if it was excessive condensation in the ventilation system caused by the sudden drop in temperature. Shining a torch up through the plastic protective grill I noticed a furry looking creature and guessed it might be a trapped young bird. However when I removed the grill out fell a desiccated bat (see image). I can only assume that the bat (I’m making a fairly safe guess at the Common Pipistrelle, Pipistrellus pipistrellus ), entered into our roof space/attic and got lost and then stuck down the ventilation ducting.
At least I now know the answer to two outstanding questions:
(1)   Why the extract fan did not work properly?
(2)   Do bats live in my house?

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the drip was nothing to do with the ventilation – a leak from a tap in the upstairs bathroom was tracking down the side of the ventilation tubing. Both domestic problems are now resolved, but unfortunately no happy ending for the bat.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

A cricketing summer at last

As a southern suburban boy I remember the lazy sound of late summer with invisible crickets strumming endlessly through the night. I always imagined thousands of individuals from the great impact on my senses. This sound however had all but disappeared for me as an adult living in rural East Midlands. Maybe I have not been near the right habitat for crickets, too far North, or they have simply been decimated by mans ongoing impact on their environment. It was with great pleasure therefore that my move to Devon this summer has reacquainted me with the Crickets’ song.

The 10 species of British ‘bush crickets’ (family Tettigonidae) are mainly restricted to southern England, whilst the 4 species of the distinctively different ‘crickets’ (family Gryllidae) are “increasingly rare and only likely to be found in the extreme South of England” (Tilling, 1987). It is the bush crickets that favour the night for their characteristic ‘songs’ or stridulation, raising their wings and rubbing them together. Last week the late summer burst of warmth seem to invigorate the local crickets and I managed to capture one (see image), a Dark Bush Cricket (Pholidoptera griseoaptera). This is a sturdy looking species, dark brown with a yellow underside and almost wingless, often occurring in bramble thickets and hedges, found close to our new garden. The song is a brief, penetrating chip (see You Tube clip at, but a combination of the species occurring in numbers and the sound carrying well can make for an impressive chorus (Haes & Harding, 1997).

Roll on next summer!

Haes, E.C.M & Harding, P.T (1997) Atlas of grasshoppers, crickets and allied insects in Britain and Ireland. London: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Tilling, S.M. (1987) A key to the Major Groups of British Terrestrial Invertebrates. Preston Montford: FSC AIDGAP project.