Your Commons newsletter, Autumn 2016

A sunrise view of Minchinhampton Common, Gloucestershire, looking towards Burleigh from near Bownham

Every season a team of dedicated volunteers create Your Commons, a seasonal newsletter. The articles include information about seasonal wildlife and plants to spot, conservation work taking place and any activities and events.

Batty autumn

Secret caves around our Commons are where rare bats, those spookiest symbols of Halloween, will this autumn be hanging about to hibernate. Protected roosts deep within hillsides at Minchinhampton, and further afield, are where endangered Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats choose to spend the winter. Disused stone mines are among their favourites, with more common Pipistrelles and other bat species lodging alongside them too. 

The nocturnal bats are of course hard to spot. Often all people see is when they suddenly catch a flit out of the corner of their eye at dusk. But the places that the National Trust looks after in fact offer homes to every species of bat that lives in the UK. 

Across the valley from the Commons, you can observe bats in the attic of Woodchester Mansion via a bat-cam. The parklands that surround the mansion are owned by the National Trust and have been the summer home and feeding ground of the Greater Horseshoes since the early 20th century. Visit Woodchester Park's web page for more information.

A common male pipistrelle bat
A common male pipistrelle bat

Update from Richard, Area Ranger  

As autumn draws in there are some big changes under way on the Commons, it's a great time to get outside and enjoy nature's seasonal delights. Many birds will be forming flocks – from parties of long-tailed tits to murmurations of starlings. Look for flocks of jackdaws, rooks and carrion crows flying to woodland roosts in the evenings.

On cold autumn mornings you suddenly realise how many spiders there are. Take an early morning walk across the Commons and spot spider webs outlined in dew on the taller grass, and on the hawthorn bushes. Bats serenade potential mates now, and it's possible for the human ear to hear these songs but a bat detector is more reliable.

Autumnal spider web
Autumnal spider web

Any woodland in late autumn will have trees showing autumn colours but beech woodland can be especially beautiful with leaves turning yellow, gold and orange before they fall. Try out a walk on some of the Commons woodlands to experience this amazing spectacle.

Cow safety update

Six cattle have so far been killed this year by cars on the Commons, most by local drivers. This is in spite of new ‘Cows in Road’ warning signs, a flashing message board above The Bear of Rodborough Hotel and fencing by Crane’s Quarry. The cows are out until November, and with ever-darker nights, the desperate message to drivers is: please slow down on the Commons, especially at night.

Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons provide a rare island of peacefulness and tradition in the hustle and bustle of everyday life
Cow on Rodborough Common

Want to join in?

We held our very first family helping event in September. Scrub 'n' Spuds provided the chance to spend the day working with the Ranger team on the Commons and learn more about how we look after these special places. If you're interested in volunteering with us, look out for our volunteer drop-in day coming in January 2017.