April may be the cruellest month but August , despite the Olympics and Russians behaving badly contains a lot of slow news days. Just the time for the National Trust to beguile the leisured middle classes and their chhildren into a day out, to spot a native (or not so native) rarity.
First up, a modest snail from Italy found by a specialist volunteer cleaning the Cliveden statuary who took his find to a snail expert at his local archaeological society and it is supposed that it came over with the original marble balustrade from the Villa Borghese. The BBC and many other news hungry editors managed to squeeze in Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw , Charlie Chaplin , Nancy Astor, Jack Profumo, Christine Keeler and even England and Liverpool footballer Stephen Gerrard who married there last year.
Remote and lovely Wicken Fen with it's own excellent website is also the home of a striking beetle which even Charles Darwin found as a student at Cambridge and now re-discovered by Stuart Warrington, the National Trust Nature Conservation Advisor who says this is the rarest species he has ever seen.The BBC pick up from the National Trust Press release.
We have to thank Matt Zeale PhD Bristol University ,part of a team , set up by Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), the Woodland Trust and the National Trust to use an acoustic lure - the Autobat - see below , which play back the bats' calls and attract them into a net, in their search for the Barbastelle bat. In this they were successful ,but Matt also discovered the rarer tree living crepuscular Lepidoptera and Dermaptera munching Bechstein's bat Myotis bechsteinii.
More here from Bristol University including a recording of the echolocation call - duration 2.54 milliseconds and normally at an average 50 kHz way below human hearing. There has been discussion that the echolocation signals emitted not only locate prey but also identify the individual / colony. There are apparently only two colonies in Switzerland and Zurich University researchers have found that they can move 50 times in a season and appear to be able to communicate between each other about site locations. News about them from Hampshire here.
The Daily Telegraph has a story in January this year about the plans for using this synthesiser - - called an Autobat - which emits 'social sounds' designed to lure inquisitive Bechstein's bats into a harmless trap. It was designed by leading bat experts Dr David Hill and Frank Greenaway at Sussex University.
Helen Miller, Bechstein's Bat Project Officer at the Bat Conservation Trust, said: "The project will give us detailed data for the Bechstein's bat for the first time, which will make an enormous difference by informing our conservation work for this species. It will also leave a legacy of trained, enthusiastic volunteers who can help keep track of the Bechstein's bat in the long term to help ensure their survival."
There are 7 bat species , including Bechstein's, that the Government have identified as priority species under its Biodiversity Action Plans scheme, a project that aims to halt biodiversity loss by 2010.
Who Bechstein was, after whom the bat was named appears as elusive as the bat.
Although not promoted the National Trust have been involved in helping protect the Large Blue Butterflies which have been controversially introduced into the wild from imported populations.
Wild populations could be seen in June / July at Collard Hill, near Street Somerset.