Tuesday, 20 June 2017

‘Bat cam’ provides unique view of rare animals

Viewers of a very different kind of reality TV will be going batty in the coming weeks. People can tune into a live webcam of a greater horseshoe bat roost to see hundreds of the rare animals appearing on screen at one time.

The bat cam is beaming live pictures around the world from an undisclosed greater horseshoe bat roost in South Devon. The camera was specially installed as part of the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project – a 5 year partnership project made possible by National Lottery players through a £785,500 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant, led by Devon Wildlife Trust, which is working towards sustaining Devon’s population of these threatened nocturnal animals.

Ruth Testa, Project Manager, of the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project said:
‘The bat cam allows everyone to see what goes on inside a bat roost – something that is not normally possible. By logging on to our website (www.devonbatproject.org) and watching the live footage, people can get a unique and intimate view into the lives of these wonderful animals. You can also watch footage of some of our teams favourite moments from previous years.’

Colin Morris, Nature Reserves Manager for The Vincent Wildlife Trust which owns and manages the site and is a partner in the project, said:
‘The bats are very active at the moment - people should keep their eyes peeled as the female greater horseshoe bats are getting ready to give birth. While difficult to see during daytime, the newborn pups are left on their own once the adults go out to hunt at night. The coming weeks should see some drama as a succession of baby bats appear on screen!’

Greater horseshoe bats have seen their numbers plummet by over 90% in the last 100 years. Today Devon remains a stronghold of the endangered species with about a third of the UK population thought to be surviving in the county.

The Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project hopes to reverse the species’ decline. Over the coming years it will continue to work with local landowners, farmers and communities across Devon ensuring that Devon remains a place which offers greater horseshoe bats the room to live and flourish.

Ruth Testa said:
‘Devon is really important for this amazing bat, as we have retained some of the landscape which is so important to them. Small, hedge-lined fields, grazed by cattle, with pockets of woodland provide the food that they need to sustain their young.’

Members of the public can help us improve our scientific knowledge of bats by taking part in the Devon Bat Survey. During the summer months you can borrow an SM4 bat detector for 4 days from 20 locations across Devon through our online booking service www.devonbatproject.org/devon-bat-survey.

Devon Horseshoe Bat Project Webcam
A Greater Horseshoe Bat – Photo copyright Michael Symes (All Rights Reserved) 


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Emily aims to send pupils wild

Local-charity Devon Wildlife Trust’s latest appointment Emily Bacon has an unusual job: to make Exeter’s school children go wild!

Emily, a 24 year old graduate who studied zoology at the University of Exeter, will work with schools throughout the city for the next 12 months inspiring children with a love of wildlife and the outdoors. Her work as an Education Assistant with Devon Wildlife Trust is being supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

One of the Emily’s first tasks will be to establish a network of Forest Schools which will offer outdoor learning to primary and secondary school students across the city.

Emily said:

“My targets are ambitious – I plan to work with 6,500 young people in Exeter during the next year. But the opportunity to engage with so many young people which is so exciting. To be able to get students out of the classroom, taking their learning outside and immersing them in nature is a wonderful privilege.

The young people who take part will develop a variety of new skills. They’ll learn how to build wild shelters and learn how to light a cooking fire. They will also gain nature detective skills, play outdoor team games and use nature to spark their creativity. These are all things that should be part of a young person’s life.”

Emily’s plans will take her beyond schools to work with local brownies, cubs and holiday clubs. In her work she’ll be using a special ‘cargo bike’ to carry all her equipment. Emily said:

“The bike is like an old-fashioned butcher’s bike with a cargo container on the front in which I’ll store my outdoor learning equipment. It should become a distinctive sight across the city as I pedal around with livery which tells people about the project, Devon Wildlife Trust and the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Look out for me as I’ll be coming to a school near you soon!”

The project was the idea of Devon Wildlife Trust’s Education Lead, Paul Martin. Paul has been working for the charity for 6 years bringing the natural world into lives of school children throughout Devon. Paul said:

“There’s a growing amount of evidence which shows that being outdoors has benefits for young people, including improvements to their health, and their social and emotional well-being. Forest School activities are especially good at encouraging individuals to build self-esteem, confidence, and resilience. Simply getting children outside in their wellies encourages a natural curiosity enabling them to experience nature first hand. Having Emily and this project will now allow us to extend these benefits to so many more youngsters.”

Clara Govier, Head of Charities from People’s Postcode Lottery said:

“Our players are raising amazing amounts of money for charities such as Devon Wildlife Trust. The charity’s good work helping young people gain better access and understanding of local wildlife and wild places is just the kind of project our players love to support.”

One of Emily’s first outings will be at Devon Wildlife Trust’s half term event in Exeter’s Mincinglake Park on Thursday 1st June. The free event called ’30 Days Wild’ begins at 10am and runs until 3pm. Emily will be joined by a team of other wildlife people offering crafts, trails and fun activities aimed at families who want to go wild.

The project runs until the end of March 2018. To find out more visit www.devonwildifetrust.org or email Emily Bacon at ebacon@devonwildlifetrust.org

Emily Bacon, New Education Assistant for Devon Wildlife Trust
Emily Bacon, new Education Assistant for Devon Wildlife Trust

Players of the People’s Postcode Lottery (PPL) have raised more than £197 Million for good causes. A minimum of 30% of the ticket price goes to charities and good causes. Check out PPL’s Charity Draw Calendar to see what charities are supported in different draws and see the Ambassadors who help spread the word about these good causes.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Charity encourages families to go wild during June

A wildlife charity is urging local people to go wild during the month of June.

The Wildlife Trusts are asking people to make the most of the natural world around them by taking part in ‘random acts of wildness’ each day during the month.

The campaign, called 30 Days Wild, is now in its third year and already has more than 35,000 people signed up and committed to taking part across the UK. More than 1,500 from Devon are among the nature-lovers ready to go wild.

Devon Wildlife Trust has announced that it is launching this year’s 30 Days Wild with a special half-term holiday event taking place in Exeter’s Mincinglake Valley Park, between 10am and 3pm on Thursday 1 June.

The 30 Days Wild event organiser is Anya Oliver. She said:

“We’re kicking off this year’s 30 Days Wild with a free event in one of Exeter’s best known Valley Parks: Mincinglake. The event is open to all and we’ll be offering pond dipping, wild crafts, games, nature discovery trails, plus ideas to bring wildlife into people’s gardens. We’ll also be challenging those that come along to do 10 wild things with us in just one day!

To each of the first 100 people to arrive at the event and who sign up to 30 Days Wild we’ll be giving them a free pack containing a wallchart on which they can record their wild month, stickers and much more.”

Exeter’s Mincinglake event is taking place at the Stoke Hill entrance to the Valley Park, close to its car park and Sylvania Hall. The event is being supported by Exeter City Council, South West Water and players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

30 Days Wild will then continue for the whole of June. Each day participants are being asked to take part in a random act of wildness at home, in their schools and at their workplaces. The fun and quirky ideas are designed to get us all to connect with nature. This year’s random acts include star gazing, building a home for bugs in the garden, taking a lunch break out of doors, enjoying mindfulness in a park or wildflower meadow, listening to birdsong and attempting to learn to spot a new butterfly.

People can sign up to take part in 30 Days Wild by clicking on a special link at www.devonwildlifetrust.org

Devon Wildlife Trust’s Steve Hussey said:

“We want people throughout Devon to use 30 Days Wild as an inspiration for getting to know their local wildlife better. They can spend a few minutes, or a few hours each day enjoying nature - how they do it is up to them. The important thing is to use our ideas for random acts of wildness as a starting point.

In my own case, I plan to stop on my regular commute by bike to work to check on the progress of one pair of swans and their cygnets on the River Exe. Rather than keeping my head down and getting to work as soon as I can, each day during June I’ll be taking a few minutes out to pause, look for this swan family and take in the wonderful wildlife that we have here in Devon.”

The Wildlife Trusts believe that there is a real benefit to our health and welfare from pausing to put a little bit of wildness back into our lives. A study of people taking part in last year’s 30 Days Wild campaign undertaken by researchers from University of Derby showed that a daily dose of nature, even in bite size chunks, is good for you. Their study* found that people who did something ‘wild’ each day for a month, felt happier, healthier and more connected to nature. Dr Miles Richardson, Director of Psychology led the study, said:

“The impact of 30 Days Wild adds to the compelling argument for bringing nature into our everyday lives. Two months after taking part in 30 Days Wild, there was a 30 per cent increase in the number of people who reported their health as excellent. Last year’s results also show people’s happiness continued to improve after 30 Days Wild ended, which illustrates its sustained impact. This is important as it is happiness and connecting with nature that influence improvements in health. Our study also shows that those who benefitted most were younger adults and those who weren’t ‘nature lovers’.” 
#30DaysWild wih the Devon Wildlife Trust
Fun for all the family #30DaysWild

About 30 Days Wild: Development and Evaluation of a Large-Scale Nature Engagement Campaign to Improve Well-Being. February 18 th 2016 PLoS One. Kelly Tyler, Public Relations Officer, University of Derby on 01332 591891 / 07876 476103 or k.tyler@derby.ac.uk

30 Days Wild 2017 is the third year The Wildlife Trusts will run this national campaign to encourage people to love nature and deepen their relationship with wildlife. Who takes part? In 2016 nearly 30,000 people and organisations signed up to take part including over 2,000 schools. Between them, they carried out over 1.8 million Random Acts of Wildness, exploring, learning about, and acting for wildlife near them. You don’t have to be a member of a Wildlife Trust to take part