Monday 5 February 2024

Glue Traps Offences Act 2022

by Aaron Pardo, Founder of Wild Youth

In my previous article regarding glue traps for the Bat Conservation Trust, I concluded with the inspiring words of Eduardo Galeons, who once said, 'Many small people, in small places, doing small things can change the world’. It brings me immense pleasure to announce that after two years, the Glue Traps Offences Act of 2022 has been officially passed. I could not be more proud of the tireless efforts and unwavering commitment everyone involved in this campaign demonstrated. 

Bat stuck to fly paper
(c) Daniel Hargreaves
Glue Traps are a form of pest control designed to catch rodents or insects using an adhesive. The figure on the right illustrates how the traps in question are indiscriminate in nature, capturing all animals that encounter it. The lack of selectivity in the trapping mechanism raised ethical concerns and underscored the need for more humane and sustainable wildlife management methods. Since witnessing first had the devasting effects, I made it my mission to advocate for the prohibition of these devices in the United Kingdom. Initially, I undertook the advocacy of a petition to criminalise glue traps. Despite this and the creation of an Early Day Motion (EDM 1477), these efforts proved to be largely ineffectual, thus necessitating the need for further action. 

I established a non-profit organisation with the aim of promoting the petition and engaging with influential Members of Parliament to further this cause. As a consequence of our collaborative endeavors, the petition garnered a staggering 42,000 signatures and, at one juncture, was the swiftest escalating petition in the UK. 

Extract from the
Glue Traps Offences Act 2022 
The campaign witnessed colossal growth and gained the attention of notable personalities. Parliament was forced into a position to respond to these developments. Jane Stevenson, member of Parliament for Wolverhampton East, introduced a private members bill to the House of Commons concerning the use of glue traps. The Bill successfully passed through the public policy stages and was introduced as the ‘Glue Traps Offences Act 2022’. Clauses 1.1 and 1.2 render the use of such devices as an offence: 

‘Offences relating to glue traps in England 

1. 

(1) A person who sets a glue trap in England for the purpose of catching a rodent commits an offence. 

(2) A person who sets a glue trap in England in a manner which gives rise to a risk that a rodent will become caught in the glue trap commits an offence.’ 

(UK Parliament , 2022) 

This development represents a noteworthy achievement in the realm of animal rights and welfare while also serving as a testament to the persuasive impact of social media on public policy. Our efforts have been widespread and devolved governments have responded by also making Glue traps Illegal. In Wales, glue traps were made criminalised under the Agriculture (Wales) Act 2023 and respectively in Scotland under the Wildlife Management and Murirburn (Scotland) Bill. 

On a personal note, I have been inspired to pursue a career in the animal rights policy sector. The passion to positively impact animals' lives has motivated me to explore opportunities in this field. 2024 will be a huge year for my charity called Wild Youth (Former Animal Rights UK) as we strive to become the largest youth-led animal rights charity. Our recent campaign on glue traps has yielded great success, and now, it is time to shift our focus to a new campaign, animal testing within the UK. Despite technological advancements and alternative methods, it is disheartening that animal testing still occurs in the UK. We look forward to the support and cooperation of our stakeholders in this crucial endeavour and encourage everyone to watch this space! 

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Walking with bats

Album cover provided by Deadbeat Creative Company, Northern Ireland

What does it sound like to go bat detecting, and how can we convey the magic of bats’ ultrasonic vocalisations through field-based narration? We had a brief chat with Mark Ferguson—the wildlife sound recordist behind recent Bandcamp release Walking with Bats—to find out. 

Full album available here.


Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into bat detecting?


I’m a wildlife sound recordist and sound artist, with a particular interest in the creative potential of animal vocabulary and audible behaviours.

From 2018 to 2022, I was a doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham, exploring how my own wildlife sounds could be used for the composition of multichannel audio works. I was doing all kinds of weird and wonderful things with sound, like placing audiences inside bumblebee nests, and drawing the sounds of bubbling water through people’s feet in the concert hall, using floor-mounted loudspeakers!

During my research in early 2020, two things happened: the COVID-19 pandemic, and the birth of my daughter. It was a very stressful time, and I had to think outside the box in order to continue recording and researching effectively. I decided to buy an ultrasound detector and teach myself as much as possible about bat detecting, absorbing well-known texts by Russ, Middleton et al., Dietz & Kiefer, etc. After learning the basics, I started heading out for short evening walks with my detector (part of my permitted daily exercise during lockdown!), making notes about my encounters and trying different recording approaches on the move. I soon became hooked, and bat detecting developed into one of my main interests as a wildlife sound recordist.

I also became a proud BCT member in 2020, and I still use the website, Bat News, BatChat and other resources to stay up to speed about bat conservation.

Bat detecting beneath an LED street light in Bristol, not far from where track 2 'Bradley Stoke' was recorded  


What is Walking with Bats all about?

It’s an album of narrated wildlife walks, exploring the fascinating echolocations of UK/Irish bat species in various spots throughout south-west England and my native Northern Ireland. There are a few bonus tracks at the end, featuring some weird and wonderful extras (including a three-dimensional, software-based reconstruction of the foraging trajectory of a common pipistrelle). The main portion of the project was undertaken from April to October 2023, with a lot of work either side and support from an Arts Council England DYCP grant.

The album is my humble attempt at establishing a reference work for narrated bat detection. It’s the kind of material I hope folks will point to when someone asks, ‘What does it sound like to go bat detecting?’ It’s also been created with nature accessibility very much in mind: not everyone is able to go bat detecting, so my goal has been to transport listeners directly to the field, even if they can’t get outside or afford a bat detector.

All people need is some peace and quiet (and ideally a decent pair of headphones) to enjoy Walking with Bats.


What inspired you to undertake the project?

As a wildlife recordist who cares deeply about the natural world, I wanted to direct more positive attention towards bats, since they are so frequently misunderstood. There are so many negative associations and misconceptions about bats which need to be dismantled, and I feel that artists of all stripes need to draw more attention to just how beneficial bats are in terms of insect control, pollination, seed dispersal, ecosystem health indication, etc. Most people simply don’t realise how much bats are doing for our planet.

Looking at how people are engaging with—and learning about—other species has also been influential. On streaming platforms, we are frequently presented with camera-worthy (subjectively cute) megafauna and birds as examples of ‘wildlife’, and end up conceptualising what’s ‘worth saving’ around those images and associations. I wanted to nudge the focus firmly towards bats, since they are such exciting animals to work with and are often sidelined.

Once you take a moment to stand back and appreciate bats objectively, you start to realise just how incredible they really are.

 


What kind of equipment do you use for detecting bats?

I’m the proud owner of a Pettersson D1000X, which is a fantastic piece of kit. I also have a D240X as a compact, go-to detector for use on casual detecting trips.

For Walking with Bats, I found a way to mount a very small, high-quality omnidirectional microphone on top of my D1000X; this meant that I could record both my narrations and the surrounding ambience as I detected, running the microphone into a separate field recorder. I need top-level professional equipment for all of my professional audio work and research, but it’s important to emphasise that you can buy a bat detector for well under £100, or even borrow one from a local library, depending on where you are.

There are often great second-hand options, so keep your eyes peeled on eBay! I bought my D1000X from a gentleman in Somerset, who had had a bit of a career change and no longer needed it.

The Pettersson D1000X, tuned to a classic heterodyne frequency of 45kHz. Rest assured that other frequencies were used in the making of the album

 

If there's one thing you'd like to accomplish with Walking with Bats, what would it be

I want to make bat detecting—and the experiences around it—accessible for people, especially young people and those with disabilities.

For bat enthusiasts, detecting is already a very interesting craft and we all know why we go out in the evenings. But there’s so much to do in terms of educating the wider public about bat detecting and getting people involved; in fact, I would like to be quite bold here and suggest that we need to worry less about data gathering, and more about showing people (especially kids) just how cool bats are. We need to be working on that all the time, because as valuable as data is, it doesn’t necessarily move people to act: if data did that on its own, we would arguably be well on our way to solving the climate and biodiversity crises.

Following on from this, I think we need to be holistic with our problem solving. We need all approaches and disciplines to solve the crises we currently face as a species. We need activism and quiet persuasion and everything in between. And from my own standpoint, we especially need ongoing collaborations between artists and scientists, to get messages across and emotionally move people to act (not just inform them to).

I would argue that all of this is especially true given the false information that has been floating around about bats during and post-COVID. We need creative projects that highlight the beauty of bats in interesting and engaging ways, and I hope that Walking with Bats achieves this and inspires others to put similar projects out there.

An An evening view, during a late-summer detecting attempt around Sheepscombe, Cotswolds. Some strikingly beautiful locations were visited during recording for Walking with Bats

Do you have any advice for young bat detectorists, or those just starting out?

It’s never been easier to get hold of a bat detector and start exploring.

One of the key messages embodied by Walking with Bats is that you really can detect anywhere: in parks, fields, suburban alleyways, even your back garden. Just go for it, and use all of the resources that BCT and other organisations have available to learn as much as you can.

Above all else, learn to listen well. The world needs good listeners who want to find out about other species and pay attention to their sounds. Bats need as much help as possible in this regard, because they aren’t normally audible to us.

We all know how important and exciting bats are; it’s time to start making their voices (and stories) heard all the clearer.

---------------------

Development of the field recording techniques used for Walking with Bats was made possible by an Arts Council England DYCP grant, awarded to Mark in 2022.

You can find out more about Mark’s work via his personalwebsite.


Tuesday 31 October 2023

The 'Secateur Eared Bat'

Harriet Mead is a sculptor and current president of the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWA). She is exhibiting a bat sculpture called the 'Secateur Eared Bat' for the SWA's annual exhibition The Natural Eye at the Mall Galleries in London (1-11 November). In this blog she shares how her passion for bats and making things started.

Well before I ever went near a welder, I wanted to make things. Like many small girls I loved soft toys but 40 years ago any realistic looking animal soft toys were expensive and beyond my reach. My mother let me use the sewing machine and encouraged me to design my own simple toys. At nine years old I managed to put the needle through my finger, complete with thread, but it didn’t put me off! Fur fabric and felt was purchased with pocket money and before long I was designing my own animals using newspaper to draw out patterns-an early training for thinking in three dimensions. 

One of my little toys was a flying bat with outstretched felt wings and a furry body with felt ears and bead eyes, the bat mascot was strung on elastic and very cute. Before I knew it, a friend of my father’s, Phil Richardson who ran a bat group, started stocking it in their ‘Batalogue’ a photocopied leaflet of bat themed wares, bat detectors and bat books. At 15 I found myself making 50 every couple of months. By sixth form I had two friends helping to make the wings and bodies. Over the years we must have made several thousand little bats that winged their way all over the country.  

I’ve always had a soft spot for bats. Dad had a bat detector which converted their ultrasonic calls which they use for echolocation into audio, from which you could identify the species. Modern bat detecting is very sophisticated by comparison. As part of a survey of bats in Norfolk, my neighbour and late mother borrowed recording equipment and set up surveys around the village for the study organised by the BTO. The recordings were then analysed by a computer programme which identified an impressive eight of a possible 14 species that could be found in the garden, including brown long-eared bats on which this sculpture is based (the species confirmed were Natterer’s bat, serotine, noctule, common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, Nathusius’ pipistrelle, barbastelle and brown long-eared bat. The three low confidence were: whiskered, Daubenton's bat and Leisler’s bat).

Secateur Eared Bat

As ever, when I make a sculpture, I must look very closely at the subject. Bats are amazing creatures and extraordinarily delicate looking. To make one form scrap metal was rather a challenge. I have used sickles for the wings and a fine-toothed band saw blade for the fur. Secateur blades for the ears with tiny tin snip blades as well. It was fiddly but fun. I am especially pleased with the feet. Although my bat is at least double life sized, the feet are still tiny. I took a while to work out how to make them but I had a brainwave and cut a little section out of an ancient coach bolt. The thread describes the tiny toes beautifully.

 


 For more information about The Natural Eye 2023 exhibition visit the website here. 

Monday 25 September 2023

Species on the Edge Youth Panel

We are very excited to announce that the Species on the Edge Youth Panel is now open for applications! Are you aged between 16 and 25, based in one of the Species on the Edge project areas, and passionate about your local wildlife? If so, this is an opportunity for you!

In this blog post we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Youth Panel. But first, here’s a short introduction to the programme and a look at what Cathryn, the Bat Conservation Trust project officer for Species on the Edge, has been up to so far.

Species on the Edge

Bat Conservation Trust is one of eight organisations working together on Species on the Edge, a new multi-partner conservation programme dedicated to supporting vulnerable and threatened species found along Scotland’s coast and islands. With a programme cost of over £6 million, and £4 million funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the programme will be active for the next four years across seven project areas in Scotland.


Cathryn is one of four Species on the Edge Project Officers working in the Argyll and Inner Hebrides project area. Cathryn is based on the Isle of Skye and, having grown up there, knows the island and many of its inhabitants well. However, since the programme began earlier this year she has enjoyed making the acquaintance of some inhabitants she, nor many people, are very familiar with: the island’s bats! Historically, there are very few records of bats on Skye and no one actually knows for sure how many species are present there.

So, the first task for Cathryn was to establish a monitoring programme. So far, Cathryn has encountered many pipistrelles and one of our more elusive target species, the brown long-eared bat. Our other target bat species, the Daubenton’s bat, remains to be recorded on Skye. Cathryn is very grateful to the many people that have joined her for bat walks over the past few months, helping to monitor the island’s bat populations. Getting local people engaged in monitoring and supporting their local species is crucial to the survival of Scotland’s threatened species, and this is where the Species on the Edge Youth Panel comes in!

Brown long-eared bat (c) Hugh Clark


The Species on the Edge Youth Panel

(c) Sam Stringer

The purpose of the Species on the Edge Youth Panel is to bring together young people from around the country and support them to develop the skills and confidence to become champions for their local wildlife in their communities.

The Species on the Edge Youth Panel will comprise of 14 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 from across the Species on the Edge project areas. Panellists will meet at least four times a year online to discuss issues relating to the natural environment and their communities. Panellists will also have the opportunity to join a fully funded spring residential.

 Through the Species on the Edge Youth Panel, panel members will:

  •          meet new people and learn from experts within the conservation sector
  •          receive training and develop their skills, confidence and employability
  •          receive support in developing their own project to encourage others to connect with nature. 

Applications will open on 2nd October. More information about the opportunity can be found on the Species on the Edge website. A notification of when applications open will be sent out via email to the Species on the Edge mailing list. To receive this notification, sign up for the mailing list here. If you have any questions about the Species on the Edge Youth Panel, or about Species on the Edge activity more generally, get in touch via SOTE@nature.scot.




Monday 18 September 2023

Keep your eyes on the skies! Bat Walking in Buckinghamshire

Words and images by Miranda Gavin


This is my first Bat Walk (Saturday 2 September 2023) and I’ve come to Emberton Country Park, situated in the village of Emberton just a few miles northeast of Milton Keynes, to learn more about the only mammals that can fly. Led by bat enthusiast and Buckinghamshire County recorder for dragonflies, Alan Nelson, and Emberton Country Park ranger, Stephen Barnes-Green, the group listening to Alan’s introductory talk is larger than I expected, and I count almost 30 adults and children. But it’s the bat facts and the Batbox that intrigue me.

The UK boasts 18 species of bats, of which 17 breed here and the 200-acre parkland has, to date, recorded six species—common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, serotine, barbastelle, noctule and the brown long-eared bat. “We may have more,” Alan says, adding that a proper survey is needed but it’s proving hard to find enthusiasts to help.

For now, we’re bat novices finding out about a species that most of us only know from horror films and DC comics. Bats give birth to one live offspring called a pup; the young feed on their mother’s milk; they hibernate in the winter, roost, and like to follow water, especially rivers and canals. There are, we learn, different types of roosts—bachelor roosts, maternity roosts, and social roosts. Bats are not blind, instead they use echolocation to navigate the skies and catch prey in the dark.

Bat Walk leader, Alan Nelson with his Batbox Duet Bat Detector 

Tonight, we expect our first guest to be the noctule. This magnificent bat has a wingspan the size of a dinner plate and appears just after sunset, followed by the pipistrelles and the Daubenton’s bat. As dusk sets in, Alan shows us his Batbox Duet Bat Detector, a device that picks up the sounds emitted by different bats. Stephen has a bat detector too, but it’s more modern and is linked to his mobile phone. Not only are bat sounds too high pitched for humans to hear without these devices, (you can find more about bat detectors on Bat Conservation Trust's website) but different species can be heard at different frequencies.

I am curious as to how to describe the various staccato-like clicks of bats, and Alan tells me that the Daubenton’s bat sounds like marbles being dropped onto a stone floor. “I started doing bat work many years ago and the assumption was that they only had one frequency,” Alan explains. “But it’s been proved that they have a range of frequency which can change. Evolution is wonderful and we’re still discovering a lot about bats. It’s a big learn.”

Emberton Country Park ranger, Stephen Barnes-Green

Then I ask why bats change their frequency and Alan smiles, “It’s because they’re intelligent!” We all laugh, including Bella Ashford, the four-year old who is here with her older sister of 10 and her mother and father, Ben and Natalie. “Some of our friends were camping here and they found out that there was a Bat Walk this evening,” Ben says as we set off through the park. “Although we came last weekend and saw quite a few bats, when they told us about this walk, we decided to come along and we’re loving it.”

Spotting a noctule
Bat watching is addictive. There’s lots of pointing and looking and we hear them before we see them. The Batbox picks up a series of chip-chop clicks from the noctule at around 20kHz, then we spot it zig zagging across the sky. With a 460mm wingspan, the noctule is one of the biggest bats in the UK and I’m captivated by the way it flies in a straight line, soaring above the treetops, before swooping suddenly. With its highly dynamic flight path, I ponder that if it was transposed to a canvas, it could be a form of abstract expressionism, known as action painting.


The noctule hunts for insects but with an increasing loss of habitat and use of insecticides, insect populations are dwindling. Once a gravel works, Emberton was transformed by Milton Keynes City Council into England’s first Country Park in 1965 and is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts with its four lakes, wooded glades, and meadows. There are even camping areas and static caravan plots for longer, more immersive stays.

Alan and Stephen are ambassadors for the wildlife at Emberton Country Park and their enthusiasm and commitment to educate and protect the natural environment is infectious. By the end of the walk, I was hooked. We’d sighted five of the six species found at the park—noctule, soprano pipistrelle, common pipistrelle, brown long-eared and Daubenton's bat. And it was clear that, if want to protect this endangered species, there’s a vital need for comprehensive bat surveys. But with limited resources available, the park is reliant on volunteers, which Is why Emberton Country Park is reaching out to enthusiasts who would like to take part.


CALL FOR ACTION: To support a bat survey at Emberton Country Park, please email emberton.park@milton-keynes.gov.uk or call 01234 711575 for further details. Alternatively, get in touch to find out about the next bat walk.

Wednesday 6 September 2023

Bat Art Trail at Mayow Park


Hello there, I'm Elena Howard, a ceramic artist based in Beckenham (south east London). I'd love to take you on a journey into my world where art, community, and the beauty of nature unite.


Art in Unexpected Places

I'm a firm believer in art that's accessible to everyone, every day. That's why I've been on a mission to weave my art into the tapestry of our local communities. My canvas? The green spaces of London, brimming with the wonders of wildlife and the spirit of our neighbourhoods.


A Trail of Inspiration

Over the past few years, I've embarked on a creative odyssey, crafting art trails for our beloved local parks. These trails represent a blend of my passions: our remarkable London green spaces and the enchanting wildlife that calls them home.

  • In Cator Park, I conjured an Owl trail, a whimsical homage to the tawny owls that grace the park with their presence. You can often hear them during the dark autumn evenings!
  • Betts Park saw the birth of a kingfisher trail, inspired by the delightful kingfishers spotted in the park's canal. These ceramic kingfisher figures brought an extra touch of magic to the park, celebrating the sense of community in Annerley and Penge.

Bats in the Limelight

When the Friends of Mayow Park and Sydenham Arts approached me to create something special for their upcoming anniversary and Artist Trail, the spotlight turned to the park's thriving bat population. I was immediately captivated by the idea and set to work crafting ceramic bats that would beckon park-goers on a captivating hunt.

Mayow Park has a deep love for its bats, evident in their popular bat walks. These guided adventures let people marvel at these remarkable creatures, armed with bat detectors, a thirst for knowledge, and the chance to meet fellow park enthusiasts. Of course, you don't need to join a walk to catch a glimpse of these pipistrelles. As the sun dips below the horizon, they gracefully glide overhead, undisturbed by our presence, as they snatch up their evening meals. And now you can see some bats in daylight too – in a form of my ceramic creations!

Bat Hunt Unleashed

For the park, I meticulously crafted over forty ceramic bat tiles. Each possesses a unique charm, with its own distinct colouring and glazing. I had a blast experimenting with various glaze combinations, as ceramics often hold the promise of delightful surprises. We placed these charming bat tiles throughout the park, always ensuring they found their place on posts, fences, and even the stumps of fallen trees (never on living trees) – a nod to the circle of life.


We introduced the Bat Hunt to the local park-goers through eye-catching posters and launched an engaging competition. People were encouraged to unleash their creativity and design bat-themed art for a chance to win a ceramic bat of their own, forever guarding their space. I also created a free colouring book, brimming with bat-themed adventures, to keep the young ones entertained while fostering a budding interest in bats (the colouring book is available here).

I wanted to infuse even more personality into these ceramic wonders. Some bats were christened with the names of famous folks who had "Bat" or "Batt" in their surnames (a surprisingly rare occurrence, it turns out!). Members of public are invited to vote for other bats’ names (or suggest their own versions), and read about their personalities on my Instagram.


Wings of Social Engagement

The response on social media has been heartwarming. People have been sharing their tales of bat discoveries, showcasing the bat-themed art their kids have been crafting, and giving me creative name suggestions.


And now, as Sydenham Arts Artists Trail begins, I'm ready to introduce another batch of bats, eagerly awaiting their chance to charm and captivate. My hope is that these cute creatures will spark curiosity in the hearts of children and adults alike, igniting a passion for the preservation of our local wildlife.


Website: www.ElenaHoward.com

Instagram: @ElenaHowardClay

Facebook: www.facebook.com/elenahowardclay


Tuesday 29 August 2023

Testing our detectors for the season

by Rowan Davis, BCT's Science Projects Officer

The bat survey season is well underway and the Science Team at Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) has sent out hundreds of bat detectors to citizen scientists and ecologists all over the country. In preparation for this we tested all of our AudioMoths for wear and tear, performance, and accuracy. We run a whole range of passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) programs here at BCT  including our citizen science programs like the British Bat Survey and NightWatch, as well as a series of other PAM projects like our National Bat Monitoring Programme's Woodland Survey, our work with Forestry England on rewilding (read more about this here) and the National Forest Inventory with Forest Research.   


To build a baseline of how our detectors work we partnered with the UCL and used their anechoic chamber, which is a room in which the walls, ceiling and floor are lined with a sound absorbent material to minimise reflections (read more about this room here). Setting up a suite of new AudioMoths, we played bat calls and digitally produced ultrasonic sweeps in this completely sound-absorbent room on campus. The strange wedges you can see in the photo stop any echoes by focussing in the sound waves into the triangular divets and then absorbing them into their material. The room itself is locked shut behind a huge metal door and is separated from the outside world by a raised floor, completely cut away from any sound. It was a ghostly experience and over time being in the room you could hear the thudding of the blood in your ears and the softest of breaths or movements in your body. This completely silent environment meant that we could collect precise measurements of how well our wonderful little detectors perform. We’ll be sending our audio files up through our sound classification system to see how our bat identifying algorithms fare, which will also give us interesting data on its accuracy too!

Due to the cost of using the chamber with its exacting setup, and how long this incredibly precise assessment takes, we tested the rest of our kit in a music studio. After building a repeatable methodology and travelling down into south London, AudioMoths in tow, we spent a couple of days in a drumming studio playing the same recorded sounds. After testing our hardware, we brought our data back to the office and have been uploading it to our classifier. Once we have our baseline data, we can test whether the detectors are getting old or damaged. This gives us a really good indication of what we can use next season and sets us up for building long-term monitoring of our beautiful and vital bat populations across the UK.