Baby bats take to the skies over Stroud

A baby Greater Horseshoe bat - called a pup

A baby Greater Horseshoe bat - called a pup - Credit: Archant

Baby bats are about to take to the skies above Stroud as the mysterious life cycle of one of Britain’s rarest creatures begins again

Woodchester Mansion shelters 154 Greater Horseshoe bats and 485 Lesser Horseshoe bats

Woodchester Mansion shelters 154 Greater Horseshoe bats and 485 Lesser Horseshoe bats - Credit: Archant

Already 39 baby Greater Horseshoe bats – called pups – have been born at Woodchester Mansion near Nympsfield this year.

Over the next few weeks the tiny, endangered, bats will be building up their strength in readiness to start flying out at dusk to feed.

Visitors can see the parents and babes hanging in the dark attic of the mansion on its regular open days, thanks to special infra red cameras. The cameras relay live pictures to a downstairs observatory which members of the public can enjoy during their tours of the mansion.

Ray Canham, volunteer bat-cam controller, said: “The bats are mysterious in a sense … the only way we see them is with the cameras. Otherwise all you see is when you suddenly catch a flit out of the corner of your eye.”

The Greater Horseshoe bat colony at the mansion is currently around 154 strong. This summer, so far, they include 18 female and 21 male pups.

Woodchester Mansion also shelters 485 Lesser Horseshoe bats, who’ve also begun having pups, a Pipistrelle colony, and small numbers of Brown Long Eared and Serotine bats.

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Mansion manager Hannah McCanlis said: “For the pups to develop they need warm weather which in turn means there is a plentiful food supply … of moths and beetles. The mums need this abundance of food to produce a rich supply of milk for the babies to feed on.”

Hannah said Woodchester Mansion’s bat population was thriving; “Year on year they’ve been recovering from the horrific winters of the 1980s when a large proportion of the colony was wiped out due to the cold spells.”

The Greater Horseshoes at Woodchester Mansion have been studied continuously since 1959 by one of the UK’s foremost experts Dr Roger Ransome; This is the longest study of a mammal anywhere in the world by a single person.

Grade One listed Woodchester Mansion is an unfinished Victorian Gothic building that was unexplainably abandoned during construction in 1873. It was rescued by the trust but will never be completed and so gives a unique view of the stonemason’s craft.

It is operated and opened to the public by the Woodchester Mansion Trust, an independent charity, whose patron is the Prince of Wales. The mansion lies within parkland owned by the National Trust.

Over the next few months visitors can book to use bat detectors on special, seasonal Bat Walks, run with the Gloucester Bat Group, on July 25, August 21 and September 12.

To find out more visit: www.woodchestermansion.org.uk.