Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Some highlights from the Scottish Bat Project this Spring and early Summer

1st April until 30th June 2013 ...Spring Highlights
My last blog was written in March as the snow was gently falling. Since then it’s been; freezing freezing, freezing , warm, back to freezing , warm and then in the last couple of week ABSOLUTELY SCORCHING!!! (I suppose on average that might be considered just right).I don’t know how our poor bats have coped with the extremes, I await the National Bat Monitoring programme results with interest.
So what have I been up to since the first of April?  The answer …Loads of batty things; here are some highlights…. .

Visits to Bat groups
I visited Fife and Kinross bat group for their AGM.  It’s a fantastically sociable night, members all bring their special “signature” dish and after the bat group business is sorted everyone tucks into a veritable feast of wonderful food. (Its one of the highlights of my social calendar!)
Another great treat is the knitting!! Yes I said knitting , some of the group are part of a project called Fife’s knitted nature and are busily knitting all the biodiversity species in Fife (naturally this includes bats) .  The results are charming and so inspiring they make you want to pick up your pins.

Fife and Kinross Bat group – bat skills, knitters and chefs, their talents are limitless.

Talks, training and events
May was a busy month for delivering talks and training sessions, it was also mostly freezing cold with few bats about.

Training for Vet students
I owe a HUGE THANKYOU to volunteer bat carers; Michelle Appleby and Carol Ann Terry who were absolute stars during a training day introducing vet students to bat care. They brought captive bats with them and answered non-stop questions.   Enormous thanks are also due to Laura Dunne and Emma Keeble my contacts at the Dick Vet School, without their help the course would not have gone ahead.  This was a new venture for BCT and was very well received. Thanks to Jess Barker too from BCT.

Hillcrest Housing Association in Dundee have an active interest in encouraging wildlife and asked for particular advice on helping bats.  I gave a short talk, a quick lesson on using detectors and some top tips on identifying local bats.  Now they are busily bat watching at properties they own.  They will present their wildlife records (including bats) at a special celebratory event in October. (In the meanwhile I hope bat activity and the weather warms up)
Other training events included evenings with;
·         Scottish Wildlife Trust apprentice ecologists ( who will go on to survey for Leisler’s bats on Arran later in the year),
·         Paisley University Zoological society, (a freezing cold night, we got about 3 bats!)
·         students at Elmwood college , (a fantastic night watching Daubenton’s and pipistrelle bats),
·         A bat care training night with North East Scotland Bat Group.
·         A bat detector workshop in Kinlochewe.
The outdoor session at Kinlochewe was very memorable. A huge full moon rose over the mountains.  We watched Daubenton’s and pipistrelle bats flying up and down the river and then…… we heard something quite different, something much lower and slower than the usual pipistrelle calls.  AAARGH, I am pretty sure it was a Nathusius pipistrelle, but it flew past and did not return so there was no opportunity to make a recording of the call.  Anyone heading for Kinlochewe please keep your ears open and recording device switched on!

Bird fair 13/14th May Hopetoun
A wild, wet and windy weekend was survived at the Scottish Birdfair. Our tent was set up on Friday only to have its roof blown off during the night.  I’m very grateful to the kind security guard who not only rescued the roof but used it to protect all our boxes of leaflets and displays.  Over the weekend six volunteers heroically helped to promote bat conservation not only by chatting to the public but also by holding on to the tent and displays when the wind blew. ( These heoes are ; Sarah Jupp,Natalie Todman, James Morrison, Alastair Hood, Eilidh McNab and Danny )

BCT tries a new recruitment technique -  Become a member – or we send the kids round!

Wales Bat conference – I had a brilliantly batty time at the Wales bat conference.  A real treat for me was the evening field work where I enjoyed listening to the funky sounds of noctule calls and a bonus sighting of otters.  The conference was a great opportunity for updating my bat knowledge and practical skills, meeting up with other batty people and to get ideas for the Scottish Confererence.

Participants at the Wales Bat conference - Great excitement when serotine calls are confirmed

A challenge not to be sniffed at…
And finally I had a rather unusual request – could I make a model cowpat and create a display that linked cowpats, insects and bats?
No bother!  I immediately set too creating a wildflower meadow (grass and wildflowers that were weeded from my flowerbeds were put into seed tray)
A cowpat wascreated;  flour, salt, water , grass clippings and food colour where mixed to a sloppy dough and dropped onto a backing tray, then left for 3 weeks in the shed to partially dry out.
My collection of plastic minbeasts was delved from the toy box
A variety of menu cards were written and voila…. “Pat and Flora’s Café” was created    
A paper tablecloth was hastily drawn on  with chunky wax crayons, to suggest wildflowers and grasses. The seed trays were put on this, the cowpat on top and minbeasts hidden in the “meadow”, bat shapes were hung above to complete the food chain.

Children made cow pat and bat hats from a band of card (the cow pat was optional but most children quite enjoyed drawing a big sloppy pat along the bottom of their hat) A fringe snipped along the top of the hat suggested grass and stickers (with flowers and minbeasts) were added to increase the biodiversity and make the hats look pretty.

Westquarter event –( meet the faeces).  Children in cowpat hats find mini-beasts (bat food)  at Pat and Flora’s Café.

Other little snippets
Thanks Dumfries and Galloway bat group for hospitality after the AGM
Thanks Fife and Kinross bat group for taking species Champion Jayne Baxter on a day’s checking bat boxes

It was slightly depressing the week before mid-summer to go on a bat walk and see only 2 bats (It was chilly!) 
How things  changed by July! More updates soon ...