Thursday, 18 March 2010

No hibernating for the Bat Helpline

Helpline Officer Harriet Henley shares her insights into her first winter on the BCT Bat Helpline…

Over the winter months I have noticed that there is one question that I hear more than any other when people ask me about my job… What do you do in the winter while all the bats are hibernating?

Well, I’m glad you asked!

This winter was my first as a member of the Bat Helpline team, and as the long summer months filled with endless phone calls about grounded bats, baby bats, catted bats and a plethora of other batty issues drew to a close, I admit that I began to look forward to autumn when the phone would inevitably stop ringing and things on the Bat Helpline would calm down. Voicing this feeling to my longer-serving colleagues, I was met with knowing smiles. Little did I know the hard work was only just beginning...

For starters, I am still waiting for the phone to stop ringing! Granted the sheer volume of calls is significantly smaller during the winter, but so is the Bat Helpline team.

Once the summer draws to a close and we say goodbye to the seasonal staff, we begin to readjust to a smaller team and attack the inevitable pile of advice letters that need writing.
As well as this, we begin to notice the subjects of phone calls change with the weather. People want loft insulation installed before Christmas, cluster flies set about their annual rampage, and calls start to come in from people discovering bats hibernating in some very odd places; a woodpile, an umbrella, a box of Christmas decorations!
There are hoards of planning and development queries, lots of people looking for consultants, and plenty of churches to give bat-related advice to.

And then there is the phone call that all Helpliner’s dread; “I’ve just been stripping a roof and have found bats hibernating under the tiles…” Those ones are a constant throughout the winter, and require a calm head, good advice, and a few urgent phone calls to local bat workers!

But after all that, the letters get written, the visits get organised and suddenly it’s March and we’re keenly awaiting the arrival of the new seasonal Bat Helpline staff, breath baited in anticipation of another busy summer saving bats.

Helpline Highlight:

One of the best experiences we've had on the Bat Helpline this year has been our recent visit to Essex to see bat workers Roger and Sylvia Jiggins. Roger and Sylvia took us around three churches and three barns to give us a better idea of the structure of these buildings, and how they can be used by bats. The day was a huge success, a good time was had by all and we were able to learn a great deal about bat roosts in these buildings, which will be an immense help when writing advice letters for these types of visits in the future.

Bat Helpline stats:

• The BCT Bat Helpline takes an average of 10,000 calls per year
• The busiest day of 2010 so far has been the 26th January, when 41 calls were taken
• Of calls taken in 2010 the most frequently raised issue has been bats, planning and development
• Since 1 January 2010, the Bat Helpline has organised 275 roost visits for members of the public who require advice about a roost or are carrying out building work or pest control that may affect a roost