Tuesday, 6 December 2011
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Phew – it’s done.
That was the biggest and (I feel) the best ever Scottish conference. J. So far. Around 140 batty people “flew” in. Most came from Scotland but a few intrepid explorers crossed the borders of England and Wales, bringing with them exciting tales of rare bats and adding a touch of the exotic.
The conference was sponsored by Mark Robinson, Arborteering Limited. He’s not just an ordinary hero but a MMMM Mark Robinson super hero (that bit should be read in a deep sexy voice). Mark not ONLY sponsored the conference he ALSO ran a brilliant workshop. (HOORAY he’s not just oak- kay , he’s tree-mendous)
Julia Hanmer gave an update on What’s new in BCT? The answer is LOADS, from new research to new website resources.
Northumberland bat group (Tina Wiffen and Graeme Smart) told us about their search for the elusive Nathusius pipistrelle. Many bat calls were recorded, many volunteers recruited, many miles trudged, many oops occasional beers were quaffed (purely in th e interests of science) but NO roosts were found. Where on earth are these bats roosting??? (All together – they’re behind you!!!) The search will go on.... watch this space in 2012 for the continued adventures of the Northumberland bat group (Haway the lads ... and the lasses).A team with more luck were the “Looking forLeisler’s“ gang. In fact this lot were positively blessed with bats. (Jammy) John Haddow discovered the joys of..... an aerial walkway, the perfect place to put up mist nets. Bats, Ailsa, Betty and Craig were radio tagged and showed the humans seven tree roosts and favourite foraging areas. Stuart Spray’s filming of a tree roost proved a much more accurate way of “counting” bats out, rather than relying on eyesight alone.
Now Culzean can boast it has 8 of the 9 Scottish species –only the whiskered bat remains to be found. (It’ll be there somewhere and what a party we’ll have when it’s found!!)
During lunch time delegates were able to watch a film (by movie – mogul Stuart Spray) entitled “Looking for Leisler’s”. Sequels are promised.
Seven different workshop topics were on offer (plus the option NOT to attend a workshop but simply take a break to catch up with bat chat).
Workshops ranged from; Bat care to bat dropping analysis with sound analysis in between. Feedback from all the workshops was very good, the only “negative“ comment was that an hour and a quarter was not long enough, everyone wanted “more, more , more.....!” So next year workshop sessions will last an hour and a half.
Eyes down, looking in for bat dropping bingo: Number 2 - longeared pooh, Legs only 7 – Spider in heaven, Shiny things – beetle wings, Bat dropping soup- crumbly poop, Tiny little bits – ex-chironomids. Guano!
Despite technical problems with the University AV equipment and a shortage of handouts* the Using Your Ears workshop by Natalie Todman got rave reviews.* (Sorry everyone the shortage of hand outs was MY fault- grovelling apology from Anne Y)
The bat care workshop had the added attraction of real bats – something that delighted participants.
Stuart Spray filmed events during the day – watch this space for a link to the results, or keep your ears open for announcements of BATFAS / Oscars in future.
It just remains for me to say thank you (to a huge long list of stars):
Stephen Brown – at Stirling University for helping organise the whole day – and the bat biscuits
John Wierwiorka- our “techie-angel”
Speakers – Julia Hanmer, Tina Wiffen, Graeme Smart, John Haddow, DR Elisa Fuentes-Montemayor ( newly doctored), and Kirsty Park
People who gave news updates- Ben Ross, Robert Raynor, Katy Freeman, Natalie Todman, Emilie Wadsworth, Andy Kerr, Tom Hastings, good looking young chap from Tayside (sorry I forgot your name)
Workshop leaders- Mark Robinson, Philip Briggs, Natalie Todman, Tom Hastings, Sue Swift, Tracey Joliffe and Danielle Linton.
Here’s a date for your diary 2012
Next year’s conference will be at the Scottish Natural Heritage Conference centre, (Battleby) near Perth, on Saturday 10th November (if the Lord spares us!!)
Can you help?
Anyone who would like to offer; talks, workshops, sponsorship or chocolate should contact
Anne Youngman, Scottish Officer, Bat Conservation Trust email: email@example.com
(Or have you suggestions for talks and speakers you’d like to hear, this is your chance to nominate a friend/colleague/victim.
THANK YOU to our sponsors Arborteering Ltd.
Tuesday, 25 October 2011
But where do bats feature in this? We’re genuinely not sure. Somewhere along the line they’ve got a reputation of flying around, sucking people’s blood and turning into caped Counts during the daylight hours. None of these are true. Apart from the flying around. I’ll give you that one. Yes, it’s true that there are vampire bats. But what the horror films don’t tell you is that they are no bigger than your hand-span, do not transform into ‘vicked vampires who vant to suck your blood’ and do not actually drink human blood, but cattle blood. Also, they don’t suck. When feeding on cattle they create a small cut in the cattle’s shoulder and lick up the dribbling blood. The cattle barely even notice. Blood sucking fiend and a danger to all human-kind? Hardly. Will they get tangled in your hair? Given the exceptional accuracy of their echolocation, this is almost impossible. Is the bat a useless rodent? (Pause for the audible gasp from the BCT office). Absolutely not. Not only are bats not rodents, but they are incredibly valuable as pest controllers and as pollinators. Some of our favourite things rely on the presence of bats – chocolate and tequila to name just two!
The Bat Conservation Trust assumes the responsibility of correcting all these myths about bats. This year we’ve been to Wildlife Xpo, and Bats and Spiders Weekend to do some myth-busting and raise the profile of bats. We’ve also been busy creating our fundraising packs and planning our Halloween parties. There are piles of crumpled bits of paper littering the office (all to be recycled!) as we come up with ideas, replace them, go back to them, and then start on a completely new theme.( Creativity takes time. And patience.) We’ve got some great ideas, and you know where to find them – our party pack is ready to download and if you need a hand post on our facebook wall. Get those apples covered in toffee, the pumpkins carved, the gingerbread bats baked and the house decorated. The costume looks great, the food is on the table and the guests are on their way. Happy All Hallow’s Eve everyone, don’t let the vampires bite!
Monday, 12 September 2011
Listening to the public, speaking for bats – The Bat Conservation Trust National Helpline – some things I’ve learnt....
This continued loss of natural habitat is a stark inevitability, and although many of our native species are equipped with the behavioural flexibility to adapt to an urban environment, in order to ensure their persistence, we must find means of accommodating and encouraging them within the fabric of our towns and cities. Although protection of habitat remains the cornerstone policy for conservationists, the reality is that many of the species under threat will only stand a chance of survival in the future if we actively pencil them into our urban plans. This requires careful research and consideration of species’ needs, and the ability to incorporate these into an urban framework while not significantly compromising the needs of the human inhabitants.
Additionally, in order for this proximity between man and beast is to be harmonious, effective communication and education must play their part, engendering attitudes of conservation and protection close to home. This is a modern conservation issue, requiring a modern and multi-angled response. The plight of the UK’s bats, and the subsequent work of the Bat Conservation Trust are a very good example of this 21st century challenge; a challenge that will become more and more prevalent with continued urbanisation in years to come.
Although a nation full of animal lovers, the general public’s enthusiasm for our furry, slimy or feathered friends tends to wain once they encroach upon ‘our’ space, or interfere with our day to day existence: thumbs up for nature, so long as it doesn’t mess on my car or down my windows! As well as the issue of habitat loss, an increase of people living the ‘urban life’ creates another challenge for conservationists: a population more and more disconnected from the natural world. Alongside the physical detachment from the country’s plants and animals that an urban migration leads to, our emotional link with many of these precious organisms is under threat; no longer relevant to a generation where blackberries are now seen as an important communication accessory, rather than tasty pie filler! As a result, a great division of opinion exists when it comes to our feelings towards wildlife. This is especially true when it comes to bats, an animal that has been shrouded in myth ever since stories began, and has gothic associations with evil and bad omens that still underlie much public opinion.
Working on the Bat Conservation Trust Helpline means that I come face to face on a daily basis with the extremes of our own reaction to this group of animals, and has frequently left me baffled as to how the same creature can create such polarised opinion; while one person is gushing with admiration and plans of bat adoption over the phone, another would have you believe that the very spawn of Satan has come fluttering in through their window and is now doing laps around the dining room.
Aside from allowing me to conduct my own crude litmus test on bats and public opinion, working on the National Bat Helpline has also highlighted how even the staunchest bat-opposer can have their opinion softened by some well placed facts and reassurance. The detachment that many of us have with the natural world, especially those in urban areas, can be addressed via effective communication and engagement, and the misunderstanding and disinformation upon which fear and irrationality thrives can be lessened.
Although this battle for the public’s hearts is an essential component in the conservation of bats, their future is still very much dependent upon the appropriate application of practical conservation techniques, and implementation of legal protection.
Fortunately, bats enjoy a high level of protection under both EU and UK law, and since the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), it is an offense to disturb or harm bats as well as their roosting sites. This protection is paramount to the conservation of bats in the UK. They are an animal with a specific set of needs: a roost site with the correct conditions (normally a separate roost site is required for summer and winter seasons), proximity to suitable foraging sites, and sheltered commuting routes between the two; and if the law permitted easy exclusion of bats from roosts at “un-natural” sites, we would see a huge fall in population numbers, and local extinctions would be likely.
However, despite this protection, even our most common species (pipistrelles) have declined in numbers dramatically over the last few decades. This is largely as a result of changes in agricultural practices and the continued loss of mature woodland. Subsequently, protection alone of roost sites may not be enough to conserve bat populations. Instead, we should seek to actively create new spaces and opportunities for them in future developments located in high bat potential areas. Bats are running out of options, so it is important that new ones are created where possible.
Like bats, artificial roost sites come in a number of different shapes and sizes, reflecting the varying preference and requirements of the different species, but essentially their purpose is always the same: to create a sheltered and protected space for an individual or group of bats as either a transient roost site or for the duration of the maternity and/or hibernation seasons. They have mixed success rates, although continued research is providing us with a clearer picture of their specific needs. Traditionally, artificial roost sites are external structures, attached onto the sides of a building. However, there has recently been the emergence of an alternative, integrated bat box. These are built into the walls of a new property; very much a physical acceptance of the idea of a shared space with nature.
Currently however, the only time that such provisions are required in a build is if it follows the destruction or demolition of a previous roost site. That said, there are still many enthusiastic individuals that go out of their way to consider nature in their planned developments, and working on the helpline, and with the assistance of my colleagues, I have had the pleasure of advising where possible on how best to maximise potential for bats in new builds. The hope is that others can be inspired or encouraged to take similar pro-active measures to conserve our bat species, however, the reality is that effective communication and education on its own is unlikely to guarantee a sufficient uptake of such ideas. Instead, as is often the case, monetary incentives are required as a more persuasive means of ensuring compromises are made for conservation. Subsidies are available for ‘green developments’, but following drops in funding (that has also seen green farming subsidies dangerously cut), only the Sustainable Development Fund (DEFRA) now exists as a source of grants and loans for developments that encourage biodiversity in the UK, with the potential for 75% of project costs being supplied from the fund. If continued development is inevitable, then these subsidies are crucial in ensuring that biodiversity targets are met in new urban areas.
The Helpline has a big part to play as well, and it has been a real pleasure to have been able to contribute during my time as seasonal helpline officer.
Please visit http://http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/bats_and_buildings.html for more information about bats in the built environment
David Urry, Seasonal Helpline Officer
Friday, 5 August 2011
Our e-communications intern has been working with us for a few weeks now, so we thought it was about time everyone got to know her a little bit better
As a Masters student studying conservation, the experience I am getting from BCT is invaluable. It’s great to see how a conservation organisation works, from the legislation to the marketing, and I’m learning more about bats every day! My favourite bat is definitely the brown long-eared bat. I have a Chihuahua at home and they look quite similar! I probably won’t try taking a brown long-eared for a walk though…
I’ve always been interested in animals and am a very active person, so a career in conservation seemed like the best road for me to go down. A combination of travelling and studying made me realise this is definitely the route for me, so here I am with my first efforts at saving the world!
I’ve been working here for two weeks now, and have enjoyed every minute. Sitting in the corner tinkering with the website and networking pages and keeping my eye out for any interesting news or updates, it’s been a rewarding experience so far. With lunchtime picnics in the park and inter-departmental games of French boules, I couldn’t wish to work with a nicer group of people, and the passion shared by everyone is inspiring. So far I have edited some of the Facebook and website pages, and even been drafted in to read leaflets onto CD for the visually impaired. I’m hoping to get the chance to take part in some of the conferences that are being held, and am ready to get stuck in to anything else that might be passed my way!
I’m looking forward to the rest of my time here, and am excited about what it will bring. If you have any ideas for the website, Facebook or blog pages please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll see what I can do to make sure you all get what you want out of them! In the meantime, keep checking our website and Facebook for updates and events, and make sure you follow us on twitter to keep up to date with what’s happening at BCT!”
Wednesday, 6 July 2011
Out of Hours Emergency Service volunteer, Heather Mikhail shares her experiences of responding to emergency calls during the Bat Helpline’s busiest June ever!
“It’s 5:30 in the evening and my phone rings. A picture of a bat pops up. It’s one of the Bat Helpline staff letting me know that all emergency calls to the National Bat Helpline will be coming to my phone! I am ready with my folder of bat information and a map of all the bat carers in the UK. And I know I have back up from Bat Conservation Trust staff just in case I have a call that is an emergency for both the bat and the human.
Once I am connected I wait. Because I’ll have to drop whatever I am doing if the phone rings I don’t cook dinner and I even try to go to the loo as quickly as possible in case someone calls!
When the phone rings I leap into action, (occasionally literally if I have left my phone on the other side of the room) The majority of the time the callers are concerned people who have found baby bats grounded or injured near their home and are keen to help the bat. I give people advice as to how to get the bat out of any immediate danger, and then I look up their nearest volunteer bat carer and arrange an emergency call out. Once I am satisfied the caller has all the information on how to temporarily care for the bat before the bat carer arrives. I log their details onto a call sheet so that the Bat Helpline staff can follow up cases.
Although it can be distressing to receive so many calls about injured bats or baby bats whose mothers were forced to abandon them, it is very heartening to know that many people call us and care so much about British Wildlife. I’ve noticed it’s often children who find the bat and persuade their parents to phone us. This is surely positive for the future of bat conservation, not only are they showing an interest, but there is a direct emotional reward for helping the bat.
I have had some unfortunate calls too though. I once got a call from a fisherman who had caught a bat on his line as he was casting his rod. He was very upset to have hurt the bat. I also get calls from scared people who have bats flying in their homes, these are harder to deal with as the caller is not so enthused about the bat; they are often worried about the bat and can’t necessarily follow the standard advice of leaving the windows open and the lights off. However I try and reassure everyone that calls that bats are gentle creatures in need of our help and they are doing the right thing by contacting us
All in all a night on the Out of Hours Helpline is very rewarding, not just for me knowing that I have helped both bats and people, but also for the callers who make a small connection with nature. It is great to know that together with the public, Out of Hour volunteers, Bat Helpline staff and the volunteer bat carers, we can make a difference to bat conservation.” Heather Mikhail OOH volunteer
Our Out of Hours Emergency Service is under threat. This lifeline recently lost vital government funding needed to support our volunteers, with hard work and dedication from staff and volunteers like Heather we’ve managed to keep the service running… But, for how long we don’t know, that’s why we’re asking for your help.
If you would like to donate to help save this service please visit www.justgiving.com/bats or you can now text BCTS 05 £5 to 70070
Tuesday, 17 May 2011
British Waterways recently launched this year’s Wildlife survey with bats as their target species. Anne Youngman (Scottish Officer for the Bat Conservation Trust) roped in some pals for a batty waterways adventure. Read on to find out what they got up to and just why waterways are so good for bats.
Our story begins on Easter Sunday. Its features the “Fab. Four”
Dylan (the dog)
And last but by no means least the intrepid explorer.......
It also features two Scottish canals;
The Forth and Clyde canal (which goes from the west coast at Bowling to the east coast at Grangemouth )
The Union Canal (which goes from Falkirk into the heart of Edinburgh and is linked to the Forth and Clyde by the Falkirk wheel).
This batty blog shows just why canals can be such brilliant places for bats (and other wildlife), for people and not forgetting dogs, especially rascally ones who like long walks, meeting other dogs and swimming.
The adventure started on Easter Sunday; the sun was shining, the birds were singing so Anne and John loaded up their bikes, harnessed up the dog and grabbed flat bat.
They all took the train from Dunblane to Polmont and then cycled (well, Dylan trotted) the short distance from the station to the Union canal.
Things already look great for bats ...
Note the smooth water - perfect for Daubenton’s bats to feed over,
The bridge – which might provide nooks and crannies for bats to roost in
The trees and bushes which not only attract insects but provide sheltered areas to feed in and land marks for navigation
No street lights - so it’s nice and dark for the shyer bats at night
No cars or lorries – so it’s safe for bats to fly across the canal and along its length with very little risk of traffic collision.
The intrepid gang cycled/trotted eastwards along the towpath all the way to Edinburgh. (A distance of around 27 miles). There was plenty to see along the way and lots of good “batty" features.
The wildflower cafe.
The canals make slower, gentler transport links for people who want to travel by boat, bike or by foot, away from noise and bustle with time to enjoy the sights and sounds around them.
The canals also provide commuting routes and habitat for wildlife, from tiny insects through to birds as big as swans and herons and of course they are great for bats too.
The Avon Viaduct has spectacular views. If you are scared of heights it may be a “knee wobbly” challenge. If you are a thrill seeker is knee/nay bother!
The trip was such good fun that on Easter Monday Anne and Flat bat decided to explore the Forth and Clyde canal. They took the train to Glasgow joining the canal at Maryhill locks, then cycled eastwards to Polmont (A distance of around 30miles).
There was plenty of wildlife and wildlife signs along the way. Otter spraints were noted under many of the bridges, particularly the new ones (perhaps the spraints are just easier to see on the smoother stones).
Cycling into swarms of flies was a pain in the eye – but at least it means the bats and fish have plenty of food.
Orange tip and peacock butterflies fluttered by but would not stay still long enough to be photographed. Anne had more luck with swans, who either continued feeding or sitting on their nests
After about 25 miles the fantastic Falkirk wheel came into view. The Wheel is a boat lift which links the Forth and Clyde canal with the Union canal.
Sadly not long after Falkirk it was time to leave the canal and get a train back from Polmont station and home to Dunblane.
The end of a perfectly batty adventure along beautifully batty waterways, or is it? What will the intrepid Flat bat get up to next?????? Watch this space.
Written by - Anne Youngman
Scottish Bat Officer
Further info /useful links
To make your own flat bat to take on an adventure
Insert BCT link http://www.bats.org.uk/publications_download.php/619/Flat_Bat.pdf
For more information on British waterways Wildlife survey
Monday, 14 March 2011
Builders get Batty: Kelly Gunnell reports back from Ecobuild 2011
It is two weeks post-Ecobuild 2011 and I am still recovering. Ecobuild is the world’s largest event for sustainable design, construction and the built environment, with more than 600 speakers and 1300 exhibitors, all held over 3 days at the beginning of March. This year Ecobuild was held at the Excel Centre in east London which meant that it could accommodate even more visitors. They were expecting more than 50,000 people to attend this year and as you can see from the picture below, it was certainly packed.
BCT had a stand in the Biodiversity Pavilion where a dedicated crew of BCT staff and volunteers helped field all manner of questions. Some queries were certinaly building related and there was much interest in the bat boxes that we had on display. However, we also had to help with general bat education. Yes, someone really did ask if bats laid eggs!
This year Ecobuild used the Cityscape area to host a number of talks relating to Enhancing Biodiversity and Greening the City. The Biodiversity talks covered everything from bees, trees, birds and yes, even bats. I was lucky enough to present two talks on Designing Buildings for Bats which were very well received.
It is great to finally see Biodiversity taking a prime position in a mainstream building related event. Hopefully the organisers will take note from all the interest and realise that Biodiversity rules the world!
If you would like to find out more about bats and how they can be incorporated into buildings why not visit our webpage click here.
Bats and Built Environment Officer
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
10.00 - I’m ridiculously excited about today’s hibernation count. Although I joined the Bat Conservation Trust in May, as part-time bookkeeper I had not managed to attend any bat events up until now. The meeting point isn’t far from home so this is a great opportunity. Excitement is tinged with trepidation, as I’m quite claustrophobic and spending hours locked in a dark tunnel isn’t usually my idea of fun…
11.15 - Set off to walk through some woods to our rendezvous. It’s a raw January day and I’m dressed in so many layers I feel like the Michelin Man.
12.15 - We’re ready to start - a mix of Bat Conservation Trust staff, friends and local bat enthusiasts as well as members of the London Bat Group. I’m joined by my friend Wayne, a keen naturalist, who lives nearby. Cindy Blaney of London Bat Group, briefs us. Previous surveys of the two disused railway tunnels have found mainly Natterer’s, some Daubenton’s and a single brown long-eared bat. Then we’re off on the short walk to the tunnels’ entrance. I’ve looked down on them from the main road hundreds of times, but have never seen them from this perspective. We divide into two groups. Nine Bat Conservation Trust staff and friends go with Philip Briggs from the National Bat Monitoring Programme. Philip explains likely places to find bats. On the tunnel walls, there are “crusts” of sooty deposits from when trains used to pass through, and bats hibernate in spaces where these are peeling away; there are also a number of bat bricks in the walls. Five of us slowly work our way along one side of the tunnel, five along the other. We have to walk carefully as there’s rubble in places, and railway sleepers to negotiate. I realise that my torch, which seemed pretty good at home, is really puny in this vast dark space. It isn’t long before the first bat is found, a Natterer’s, in a bat brick. It’s great to see it, and we gather round to take a look. Soon there’s another discovery, another Natterer’s, this time behind one of the crusts. For long periods we work in silence, the only sounds our footsteps and the rumble of tube trains. I’m at the end of the line of surveyors and at one point think I’ve found a bat not previously spotted. It’s possible to see much more of this bat – the length of its wing, part of its white front and its face. It’s beautiful. Although it turns out that the bat has already been counted, I’m still thrilled.
14:00 - We leave the tunnels, having found six Natterer’s bats in our tunnel – a disappointing number compared to previous years. But I’ve really enjoyed the experience and feel very privileged as you can only enter a bat’s roost if you are accompanied by someone with a special licence.It’s getting pretty cold, despite all the layers, and several of us retire to the local pub to warm up.
(Please note it is illegal to enter a bat hibernation roost unless accompanied by a licenced bat worker)
National Bat Monitoring Programme The Bat Conservation Trust runs a number of nationa and annual surveys through a volunteer network to monitor the status of many of our bat species across a range of habitats. Our surveys form the National Bat Monitoring Programme through which we track changes in bat populations. Monitoring bats is essential as over the last 60 years it would seem that many of our bat species have declined dramatically. The data collected allows us to: •Assess the conservation needs of the UK's 18 species of bat •Identify any rapid declines •Select conservation priorities and inform conservation policy •Ensure limited resources are directed to where they are most needed. If your are interested in finding out more about becoming a NBMP volunteer, please email Felicity Bates (email@example.com).