Tuesday 18 April 2017

The South West Bat Conference 2017

On the 25th of March, I went to my very first bat conference. It was a bit of an adventure for me, what with having to wake up at 5:30 am to get the train!
I had been told the day before that a slide advertising my previous blog post (see here: http://batconservationtrust.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/my-life-as-young-bat-enthusiast.html) would be shown at the start of the conference so I got rather worried that I’d miss it when my train was delayed. Fortunately, I arrived seconds before the end of the first talk when my slide was shown and I got to see it! Thanks so much to Carol Williams for adding that to her talk!

The conference was brilliant – it was so unusual for me to be in a room full of people that all liked bats! In the main area, there were many people selling new and exciting bat detectors, as well as that all important ‘Bat Tat’! I came away with 5 pin badges, 4 post cards, one bat soft toy and two BCT bags - got to let everyone know you’re a bat fan!

I thoroughly enjoyed the talks, and was very pleased to see and meet quite a few alumni from the University of Exeter. The first research talk was by George Bemment who spoke about a roost of greater horseshoes at Berry Head. This roost was interesting because it wasn’t the nicest of bat roosts, being cold and quite far out to sea, so why were the bats still there? We’re still unsure!
The second research talk was by a fellow Exeter University student, Amy Fensome. Her research used the NBMP’s data to look at the effect of fragmentation of landscapes by roads. She’s statistically proven that bats are more numerous in less fragmented habitats, and so hopes her research will be involved in future road planning. It was so exciting to hear from people involved in bat science and just made me more eager to get into that world myself!

The third talk was about the bats of Enys House by Simon Barnard. This place sounded like one of the fantasy houses I’d dream up as a child, what with 6 different bat species having originally occupied the entire house! The talk explained how both the needs of the bats and the needs of the house occupants could be met with some careful problem solving. It was nice to hear things seemed to be going well – despite a few break-ins by some pesky brown long-eared bats!
The fourth talk was by Daniel Hargreaves – a name I recognised from many an issue of ‘Bat News’! He spoke about the Nathusius Project that’s currently being run and some of the ecological knowledge that they have gained from this intriguing pipistrelle. What I found most interesting about his talk was the ‘Citizen Science’ aspect. The project was being carried out by bat groups across the country thanks to interest and passion, and to hear that happen for a creature so misunderstood and persecuted as the bat made me very happy!

We also got given the opportunity to attend a workshop during the event and being interesting in obtaining a bat survey license, but not really understanding much about the different types or how they worked, I decided to attend the class licensing workshop run by Lisa Worledge from the BCT. She made what would otherwise be quite a confusing and dull topic interesting and accessible and I was quite pleased at the end when I not only identified 2/3 of the bat pictures in her PowerPoint correctly, but also got full marks on the test she gave us, at the end, on the topics we’d covered!

The final talk was about the Devon Greater Horseshoe Project by Ruth Testa. It was intriguing from a zoology perspective to hear about the distribution and habits of such a quirky little creature – and yet more talk of passion-driven ‘Citizen Science’! Having lived in Reading for most of my life, where greater horseshoe bats aren’t very common, it was a delight to meet a greater horseshoe (called Herbert) when I completed my bat care course with the Cornwall Bat Group! They have the most remarkable little faces!

At the end of the event, after the raffle had been called (no winning tickets for me!) and there’d been discussions about priorities in the South West, I wished the conference could have lasted a bit longer! It was so lovely to meet and talk to people as interested in bats as me and everyone I spoke to was friendly and welcoming.
The thing that will really stick with me, however, was when Carol said how much I will have changed people’s perceptions about bats with my previous blog post. That meant so much to me for I consider it a bit of a life ambition!
However, there’s definitely still many more people out there with misguided views on bats and still many more bats who need our help, so I’m not finished just yet!

by Maisy Inston

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