As the end of June comes hurtling towards us and the Summer solstice has passed, I have heard a few people lamenting how “summer’s over” and “the nights are drawing in”! I have been making the most of the long daylight hours by spending some of my time doing one of my favourite things; observing bats.
Bats play an important role in many environments around the world. Some plants depend partly or wholly on bats to pollinate their flowers or spread their seeds, while other bats also help control pests by eating insects. In the UK, some bats are ‘indicator species’, because changes to these bat populations can indicate changes in aspects of biodiversity. All bats in the UK are insectivores – they only eat insects, and while some people think bats are pests, bats are actually pest controllers eating thousands of insects every night.
There are 14 bat boxes in total dotted around the Carrick golf course, made up of a combination of regular roost boxes, as well as two heated bat houses based at Auchentulloch. During my most recent survey, I observed 94 Soprano pipistrelles exiting one of the heated bat boxes at dusk as they headed out to forage for midges. Soprano pipistrelles usually feed in wetland habitat so the Carrick is a perfect hunting ground. During the summer, females form maternity colonies where they give birth to a single pup in June or early July, whereas males usually roost singly or in small groups. Populations of pipistrelles have declined in the last few decades which is why monitoring them and passing the information to the Bat Conservation Trust is an important aspect of bat conservation work.
Otters, on the other hand, are much more elusive creatures! Since my last update, I have found further signs of otter tracks at various places across the North reserve but have yet to capture an image on the trail camera. Otters are classified as protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and are absent in many parts of the UK, therefore we are extremely privileged to have them living near us. During one of my many walkabouts, I was thrilled to spot a kingfisher whose electric blue back was unmistakable as it sped along the River Fruin in low-level flight. Some of you may have spotted one or two brown hares around the golf course too, which are always a delight to observe.
I am delighted to tell you all that the path in The Enchanted Wood is finished, which completes phase 1 of the whole project. My thanks and acknowledgements go to South West Environmental Action Trust, and South Ayrshire Waste and Environment Trust for funding £500 each via the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund. I am currently formulating plans for phase 2 which will be another challenging project and one which I am looking forward to immensely!