I think the people in this country have had enough of experts. / by Jonathan Thomson

Someone once said that….but at UWNR we just can’t get enough of them and this week Hugo Brooke (from Butterfly Conservation) and Jenny Bennett (from the Wiltshire Bat Group) visited. Both ran sessions with the young people, who are doing the John Muir Award. And both sessions were just superb.

Jenny ran her session on Monday night and armed with bat detectors (which pick up and translate the hunting echolocating calls of the bats) we stalked UWNR - listening in amazement as the bats squawked and barked their way across the lake, through the woodland and down secluded rides.

We detected these species - a reasonable count, given the night was lit with a full moon. Bats are reluctant to hunt under a full moon - they are more vulnerable in these conditions to predation.

  • Common Pipistrelle

  • Soprano Pipistrelle

  • Brown Long Eared

  • Serotine

  • Noctule

  • Myotis (this genus contains Daubenton’s, Natterer’s, Whiskered and Brandt’s. With sound detectors it is impossible to differentiate between these species - their calls are almost identical).

Without an expert (Jenny) none of this would have been possible….

On Tuesday morning Hugo Brooke ran a moth identification session with the John Muir group. Hugo and I had set up the moth trap on Monday afternoon, in the north field at UWNR. On our way back from setting the trap we spied this extraordinary butterfly. On first glance, I thought it was a very common Meadow Brown, but Hugo knew better. Hugo reckoned it was a Purple Hairstreak and he was bang on the money. While not uncommon this species is mesmerising to observe - the purple flashes flick on and off as sunlight catches their irridescent purple hairs, which run across each wing. Truly staggering!


Again while not uncommon the star (for me anyway) of the moth identification session, early Tuesday morning, was this stunning Blood Vein.


Last Tuesday was Jack Sanford’s last proper day at UWNR. He has now completed his John Muir ‘Conserver’ Award and is embarking on an apprenticeship as an Arborist and Woodland Manager. This next step is a great fit with the work he has done at UWNR. He has been a constant presence at UWNR for just over 2 years and many of the habitat developments have come from ideas Jack has offered. While we will still keep in touch, I will miss him hugely.

This spring & summer UWNR has been bountiful - some highlights; a Hobby arching across the pond at speed in pursuit of dragonflies, then eating them on the wing, countless Grass Snakes warming themselves in the sedge marsh, little Grebes foraging on the lake, Barn Owls in full hissing nighttime cry the brood now fledged, the fledging Buzzard mewling to its parents, they riding the thermals above the land, Emperor Dragonflies hunting deep into the woodland, the vixen calling, young Badgers poking about in the long grass searching for worms and the kingfisher darting across the lake in pursuit of prey.

Finally a bit of horn blowing….this recently from the lovely folk at the John Muir Trust:

Just a further note to say I’ve had a read of the pages you’ve sent (I couldn’t resist doing it now with a cup of tea) and it’s wonderful to see so much activity and the hands on, joined up, meaningful activity your participants have been getting involved in. I’m wondering about pulling together the various strands of your activity so far into a Case Study which we could share with others through our website, to inspire people about the different things they can undertake on their Awards.