News and Updates

Monks Wood Research Project 2017

Antonio Moreno writes about bat research at Monks wood over the last few years, and what we discovered in 2017…


Monks Wood is a National Nature Reserve managed by Natural England. Bat research here during 2016 opened up a new world in the Cambridgeshire Bat Groups’ list of questions. Special attention to the rare species of our county, such as small Myotis, Barbastelle, and the presence of Nathusius’, brought up the idea and made us enthusiastic to prepare more bat work for the 2017 season.

Monks Wood is so colossal that we could still spend quite a few more seasons surveying there, and keep finding out much more information about the bat colonies using it.

Barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus)

This season we focused our attention on the more south-eastern area of the wood, where we found the highest bat activity in 2016. The 2017 season started step by step to answer some questions proposed:

Breeding status during maternity season…

It has been extremely exciting to discover a bit more about the breeding status of our bats, and the likelihood of having maternity roosts in Monks Wood. This year we had the opportunity to see some pregnant Brown Long-eared Plecotus auritus, Barbastelle Barbastella barbastellus and Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus.

Radio tracking Barbastelle

That is right, Barbastelle are more common on Monks wood than we may think. If we compare them with the presence of other species in the wood, there is a good number of them. We discovered 8 Barbastelle roosts in trees by radio tracking and found out about their foraging range and their core foraging areas.

Maternity roosts…

Ishhhh, it would have been great to find the actual roost/s they use for maternity. We tried emergence surveying 7 tree roosts at the same time which were discovered whilst radio-tracking. Whether they were on a tree that we couldn’t cover or on any other tree in the area, we couldn’t figure, although surveys provided appropriate information to say that there is a high reasonable likelihood that Barbastelle are breeding within the woods.

Swarming survey…

We are still to collect a lot more information on this topic as it is not considered that the survey effort was enough to provide information on swarming bats for 2016 and 2017 on the south-east of the wood; with a single survey in September 2016 and one another at the beginning of October 2017.

2016 left us with a good taste in the mouth as we found that there were more than 6 species, although, it has to be said that they were recorded quite far apart in time. 2017 left us on a bitter note with very limited bat activity and only a single species recorded (Barbastelle). This all pointed to one direction… to possibly try another part of the wood.

I have to say that this is not all, as I haven’t mentioned about the thrilling night when we had Whiskered bats Myotis mystacinus during one of our surveys in May. That was fantastic!!!

Antonio looking at the teeth of a whiskered bat.

In conclusion, the year has brought really valuable information; the presence of rare species such as the Barbastelle colony which is very likely to be breeding in the woods, the presence of Whiskered bats, breeding Brown Long-eared, the presence of pregnant Soprano Pipistrelles, and gorgeous sunrises.

With this summary, we give you an invitation to join us for future surveys to come, as there are still a lot of questions we would like to answer.

Next surveys to come will hopefully be the “2 metres” research project, to look for bat tree roosts below 2 metres high.  This will be our follow-on surveys on the woods. Do not wait, join in and come along to enjoy this majestic woodland!

Photo credits: Rachel Bates

Leave a Reply