Popular Bat & Barn Owl Nights return to Martin Mere after three years

Visitors to WWT Martin Mere will get a rare chance to search for owls, bats and even rare moths at a special after-hours Bat and Barn Owl night returning for the first time after a three year break.

The event, which last took place in 2019, offers a visit to the reserve with a warden at dusk to search for the night-time creatures after sunset.

The evening will start with setting a moth trap – which will be checked before the end of the night to see what has been caught. The last time WWT Martin Mere held the event, an Obscure Wainscot moth was discovered – a first in the history of Martin Mere.

After setting the trap, participants will walk around the reserve searching for barn owls, which are most active at dusk and dawn as they swoop around the reserve to hunt for food such as voles, mice and rats.

As the evening turns dark, the night will move on to tracking, recording and identifying bats. The UK’s wetlands are a popular place for bats, with 17 breeding species that can be spotted darting about on a summer evening.

Nick Brooks, General Manager at WWT Martin Mere, said, “This year is one you won’t want to miss if you’re a fan of barn owls. It’s the most successful year we’ve had with plenty of activity. We’ve got four nests on-site raising an impressive 18 chicks.”

Louise Clewley, Reserve Manager, added, “As well as looking out for bats, we will be using a bat detector to listen to their sounds. Bat calls are usually too high-pitched for a human to hear, but the detector will give you insight into the different sounds species can make.

“As many species of bats are vulnerable; it is vital to monitor their activity to ensure their conservation. Bats are extremely difficult to survey due to their nocturnal activity therefore, detectors are required to detect the echolocation calls that bats produce to catch their prey. At Martin Mere, we’ve recorded species such as the Soprano Pipistrelle, Common pipistrelle, Noclule, Daubenton’s and Brown long-eared bats.”

The Reserve Team collects barn owl pellets to analyse what the owls have been feeding on, mainly finding undigested fur and bones of short-tailed field voles, their favourite food. The grass on the reserve is kept long and full of tussocks, creating a perfect habitat for the field voles to breed and provide food for the barn owls and their offspring.

Wetlands are alive with a variety of insects, making them a great source of food for bats. They will usually emerge from their roost around 20 minutes after sunset and fly 2-10m above ground level, searching for food – something you can expect to see if you join in on one of the nights.

Pauline Stubbings, a past attendee of the Bat & Barn Owl Nights, said, “It was great to be able to experience the reserve at night. I saw all the activities you won’t usually see during the day, such as bats flying around looking for insects and barn owls hunting for food for their young. It really was something spectacular!”

The event costs £16 per person and will take place for six days across July and August, with the first session on Friday 15 of July. To secure your place, visit the WWT Martin Mere website.

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