Friday, 29 September 2017

Devon residents go batty for science this summer

Hundreds of people in Devon have surveyed their gardens for bats this summer as part of the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project.

The 2017 Devon Bat Survey has been the biggest yet with 600 unique locations surveyed, from Seaton to Plymouth and Salcombe to Combe Martin. Participants in the survey - which this year runs until the end of October - collect their bat detector and ultrasonic microphone from one of 20 monitoring centres across Devon, including shops, garden centres and community hubs.

Each survey takes place over three nights - so there have been a total of 1,800 nights of bat detecting in Devon gardens this summer. So far that has required more than 2,700 hours of volunteer time in collecting and deploying the bat detectors.

And this survey effort has resulted in more than half a million sound files recording the nocturnal noises - including those of echo-locating bats in flight - in Devon gardens since April.

These files are being analysed to produce a report for each garden showing which of Devon's sixteen bat species has been recorded. Bat surveyors from early in the season have already had their reports, which take around a month for project staff and volunteers to complete.

Devon's landscapes supported thriving bat populations for centuries until some species suffered serious declines in the last few decades. Monitoring bat activity is an important tool in bat conservation, but there are still many gaps in our knowledge of what species are present in different parts of Devon.

Ruth Testa, manager of the Devon Wildlife Trust-led Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project said: "The Devon Bat Survey is so important in helping to increase our understanding of how all bats, not just the greater horseshoe, are using our landscape. By doing it in a way that involves members of the general public, it means that more people become aware of bats around them, raising the profile of these fascinating mammals".

Taking part in the Devon Bat Survey has proved a hit with wildlife lovers in Devon. After receiving the report from their garden, one participant at Goodrington, near Paignton, said: "We are most excited to hear that we have so many different bats in the area. We will most definitely be keeping an eye out for them!"

And receiving survey results has even inspired a little friendly competition among the volunteer surveyors, keen to see whether they can match the number of bat species recorded in their neighbours' gardens. Jill Turner, owner of holiday cottages near Bideford, commented on Facebook: "Really easy to set up the equipment, now eagerly awaiting the report from our August survey. Others in Littleham have discovered 10+ species flying by so we are excited to discover more about our bat population."

There are still opportunities to take part in this year's survey by booking a bat detector online at The 2017 survey runs until the end of October. The Devon Bat Survey will return next spring and continue as part of the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project for another three years.

A report on the full results from all bat surveys across Devon in 2017 is scheduled to be available online in January.

Devon Wildlife Trust. Greater Horseshoe Bat in flight - Photo copyright Frank Greenaway (All Rights Reserved)
 Greater Horseshoe Bat in flight - Photo copyright Frank Greenaway (All Rights Reserved)
Devon Wildlife Trust. Collecting Devon Bat Survey materials at Chudleigh Town Hall
Collecting Devon Bat Survey materials at Chudleigh Town Hall
Devon Wildlife Trust. Bat detector, microphone and other kit
Bat detector, microphone and other kit

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Rare Strawberry Spider Discovered in North Devon

A rare and remarkable looking spider has been discovered living at a North Devon nature reserve.

The spider in question is the strawberry spider, a species which is classified as ‘nationally scarce’ by arachnid experts. The discovery is thought to be one of only a handful of sightings in Devon since it was discovered near Ivybridge in 2008.

The strawberry spider was found at Devon Wildlife Trust’s Meeth Quarry nature reserve, the first time it had been seen at the North Devon wildlife haven which is close to the town of Hatherleigh.

Araneus alsine to give the strawberry spider its full scientific name, is a member of the orb-weaving family of spiders. The spider has a very distinctive red-orange body, flecked with yellow dots and looks remarkably like a plump, ripe strawberry. It’s also large for a British spider, with the bodies of females reaching up to 15mm in size.

The surprising eight-legged discovery was made by bug-hunting expert Rob Wolton while he was making a routine visit to Meeth Quarry nature reserve. Rob said:

“I was out recording insects like hoverflies on the reserve, when I spotted this huge red spider unlike any I had ever seen before. I took some photos and when I got home looked it up. It was a real surprise to find such an eye-catching spider. It just goes to show what a special place Meeth Quarry is. Full of the unexpected.”

Meeth Quarry is one of 50 nature reserves cared for by the charity Devon Wildlife Trust. Until the 1990s it was an active clay mine producing clay for export. After being decommissioned its two huge clay pits stood unused for a more than a decade before Devon Wildlife Trust took over its ownership in 2013.

Today the nature reserve is visited by thousands of people each year, many arriving on the Tarka Trail cycle way which runs through the site. Its 150 hectares are free for people to explore and enjoy. A newly installed wildlife hide makes a popular destination for birdwatchers while insect experts have identified one of southern England’s largest colonies of the rare wood white butterfly living on the reserve. Now a rare spider, the strawberry spider, can be added to the growing list of Meeth Quarry’s known inhabitants.
Devon Wildlife Trust. Strawberry Spider (Araneus Alsine) Photo copyright Rob Wolton (All rights reserved) 
Strawberry Spider (Araneus Alsine) Photo copyright Rob Wolton (All rights reserved)


Invitation to New Book Launch at Clovelly Visitor Centre, Saurday 14th October at 2pm

Sir David Lewis, in his retirement from a successful career in the City (also as the eighth Welsh Lord Mayor), settled in the Edwinsford area, North Carmarthenshire, and has since researched and written about the histories of gentry and families there.

This book is the third in his series, covering the connection to Clovelly when the Williams family daughter, Arabella Williams (1739-97) of Edwinsford, married Sir James Hamlyn Bt MP (1735-1811) of Clovelly in 1762, bringing the Edwinsford Estate as a dowry.

To celebrate the Clovelly launch of this handsome and very interesting new book, Sir David Lewis will be at the Clovelly Visitor Centre on Saturday 14th October, from 2 pm to give a reading, answer questions and sign any purchased books.

The book is a hardback cover with dust jacket, 540 pages, 400 old and new photographs, and maps. £20 per copy.
  • History of the Edwinsford and Clovelly family and estates over 1,500 years
  • Histories of Clovelly, Talley, Llansawel, Caio, Crugybar, Pumsaint and Hawthornden Castle families and estate properties
  • Histories of community life, sporting events, churches, chapels and schools
A book can be purchased at the launch OR thereafter at the Clovelly Visitor Centre OR by contacting Sir David Lewis, email:


Invitation to New Book Launch at Clovelly Visitor Centre
Invitation to New Book Launch at Clovelly Visitor Centre 
Saturday 14th October at 2pm
"A History of the Edwinsford and Clovelly Communities - The Williams, Drummond, Cary, Hamlyn, Fane, Manners, Asquith and Rous Family Owners" by David T. R. Lewis