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Rare bat discovered at Axe Estuary Wetlands
Tuesday, 09 October 2012
UNIVERSITY of Exeter scientist Dr Fiona Mathews has discovered one of Britain’s rarest mammals living in East Devon.
Members of the public were treated to a surprise close-encounter with the Grey long-eared bat, believed to be one of only 1,000 individuals in the country, at an event organised by East Devon District Council’s Countryside Service at the Axe Estuary Wetlands.
The bat evening was part of a regular Wet and Wild Weekend – a celebration of the wildlife of the Axe Estuary Wetlands attracting nearly 500 people.
Dr Mathews and fellow bat-enthusiast Adrian Bayley had set up mist nets so that people could meet some of the animals they were hearing on bat detectors, and were amazed to find the country’s rarest bat.
There are only six known breeding colonies of Grey long-eared bats in the UK. This discovery potentially links an isolated group near Newton Abbot with colonies in Dorset and the Isle of Wight.
Dr Fiona Mathews said: “I immediately suspected that this was a Grey long-eared bat, and to share the excitement with so many people at a public event was fantastic.
“I have found small numbers of these bats before a few miles away, but this find of a recently-lactating animal shows us that the bats are breeding here.
“With funding from the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership, I was able to radio-tag the bat and find her roost.”
Dr Mathews is now following the bat’s movements and has found it foraging for moths over the wetlands and in the pastures around Colyford, north of Seaton.
Grey long-eared bats feed largely on moths which they find using their enormous ears.
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