The rare Bechstein’s at Westhumble

Whilst out and about trapping bats with Surrey Bat Group, we caught the rare Bechstein’s (Myotis bechsteinii).  The UK population is estimated at 21,000 and it’s distribution is mainly in southern England.  The bat was named after Johann Matthäus Bechstein, a German naturalist who lived from 1757 to 1822.  Even over 200 years ago, he was an activist for the protection of animals that were considered to be pests, such as bat species.

Further information on the bat can be found here.

“It’s been particularly challenging this year because of the unseasonably cold, snowy weather and we’ve been working round the clock to keep our new arrivals warm, dry and well fed – especially the lambs. 

“The biting wind has been a particular problem for our newborn calves this year, though the Belted Galloways do seem to love the snow. The breed originates from Scotland where they have to cope with very harsh weather conditions – so a little Surrey snow doesn’t seem to bother them!”

The new calves and Hill Radnor lambs will grow up to be part of the Trust’s conservation grazing herd, which have a vital job to do in managing habitats for wildlife in Surrey.

“The baby animals are very cute, but they also have a really important role to play in the conservation of heathland and chalk grassland habitats in the county and the preservation of the wildlife that lives there,” added James.

The Trust uses its animals to graze land around the county including Chobham Common, and Thundry Meadows, near Elstead. It also grazes on behalf of other landowners including The National Trust, on sites such as Box Hill, near Dorking and Petersham Meadows, near Richmond. The first herds will head out to begin this year’s grazing programme in early April.

Grazing is the most natural method of looking after the landscape and the animals can access areas that machinery can’t. Grazing has less impact than burning or cutting would, so allowing slower moving species to thrive. The way that animals feed creates a mosaic effect, with tussocks and longer areas of vegetation left behind, creating greater variety in the habitat.

The Trust started its conservation grazing project with just three animals in 2007. As well as some 420 cattle, it now has 25 goats, 85 sheep and also uses red deer for managing habitats in the county. The Trust also provides animals to the University of Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine, to help train the next generation of farm vets.

You can help the Trust’s conservation grazing work by sponsoring a goat. For just £25 you will receive a cute cuddly goat toy, personalised certificate, information sheet and photo.

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