Batman

One of the first things I wanted to do at the new place was a bat survey. There's a practical reason - we're thinking of knocking down the buildings next summer - but I was also intrigued to find out how many bats there were about. Bat numbers have decreased so much they are one of the most heavily protected animals we have; they have a low reproductive rate, apparently, and have suffered from long term and significant loss of habitat (less surprisingly). Hence last night's arrival of Ace Consulting's Alex Crossman with torches and listening kit and, of course, willing sidekick. It turns out we don't have any bats in the house, which news I had mixed emotions about, to be honest! There were only a few of our most common bat, the Common Pipistrelle, zooming around our insect laden oak trees - great evidence, incidentally, of what valuable trees they are for biodiversity. I was surprised, as I think was Alex. This should be prime habitat for bats, and we should be seeing many more of them; we have a good hedge system hereabouts and plenty of trees bordering the fields around us. I guess the one thing they're missing is water, which we're putting right next year.Phil Brown's initial landscape plan includes three ponds of varying sizes and formality and various small scale wetland areas. Hurrah! I remember the horrified reaction of the digger driver when we announced we wanted a pond at our old house; he'd spent his working life filling them in, and thought they were just mosquito breeding units. The mosquitoes were never a problem, and the bats and other predators they brought into the garden a delight. As well as ponds we'll also be including roosting and hibernation boxes in the house and garden, from the excellent Schwegler range we stock, and I'm confident bats will have a starring role in our beautiful new ecosystem.