Encounters in the night

From last summer, when weather conditions have been suitable, volunteers have been meeting each month for four nights every new moon to carry out a moth survey of the wood. The survey involves us using a moth trap; a brightly lit box that attracts moths allowing us to ID them and then set them free. The wood is open to the public 24 hours a day, which means we are unable to leave the trap unattended. As a result we spend the evening sat around the trap, catching moths as they arrive.

To date we have found 303 moths of 44 species including tree lichen beauty; which was considered a rare migrant, but has expanded it’s range in recent years, small white wave; which is particularly found in ancient woodland and maiden’s blush locally common in the south of England.

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(From left tree-lichen beauty, broad-bordered yellow underwing, shuttle-shaped dart and ruby tigers)

While trapping in the dark we have also experienced some pretty close encounters with other animals. One evening last summer we heard a repetitive squeaking. We followed the noise and found two fluffy tawny owlets. We heard the owlets and their parents repeatedly over the summer.

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(Above:tawny owlets)

In September volunteers were sitting around the moth trap in the main glade and could hear a chirping sound on the edge of our hearing. Male Leisler’s bats exhibit lekking mating behaviour and it was this that we could hear. Breeding males emerge from their holes at nightfall and fly around the area of their mating roost calling loudly. They then return to the roost after a few minutes, where they continue to call and await the arrival of females. These calls are different to ecolocation calls that bats make and are audable to human ears. The following day we had our autumn bat box check and sure enough in a box in a tree behind where we were sitting we found a male and a female Leislers bat.

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(From left: bat box check and male Leisler’s bat found )

Most recent of all was an amazingly close encounter last week with a very curious fox. The fox began by stalking us, crawling up to us one by one. It then inspected the moth trap very closely.

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Our next moth survey will take place at the end of May. We’re looking forward to more night-time encounters with the Wood’s wildlife.

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