Friday 8 March 2019

Meet BCT's new Bats in Churches Training and Survey Officer - Claire Boothby

What do you do for a living?
I’m very lucky to be working for BCT as the Training and Survey Officer for the Bats in Churches Project. I’m new to the post and I am looking forward to learning more about the wonderful world of bats and churches. Before this I was working for British Trust for Ornithology as the Development Officer for the Garden BirdWatch Survey.

What interested you in the Bats in Churches Project?
We know at least eight species of bat in the UK have been found to use churches to some extent and particularly the older, medieval churches. Some churches are home to large maternity roosts in the summer months, and bats can be found to use churches year round. It’s clear that these spaces are important for our bats, but they are also important heritage sites – they’re part of our history – and they are often the hub of the local community. In most cases the amount of bats is few and they cause little disturbance, but in some cases the cleaning burden, plus damage to historic fabric and monuments can be difficult to overcome At university I studied Applied Ecology, as I have always been inspired by research that has practical outcomes. I want to be part of the team that helps alleviate conflict and seeks to find practical and useful solutions, to help both the bats and churches.

How did you first get interested in bats?
I became interested in bats when I went on my first bat walk, at National Trust’s Polesden Lacey. I had a great time learning to use a bat detector, opening a window into the hidden world of bats. I can remember being excited to see and listen to the pipistrelles at the water tower and then the larger serotines down the long walk in the formal gardens.

Which is your favourite bat species and why?
It's a difficult choice but I think I’d have to say the brown long-eared bat. They do look fantastic, with ears nearly as long as their body, but that isn’t the reason. I'm particularly fond of these ‘whispering bats’ as they are the first bats I saw up close. It's the only species of bat in the UK that I have seen in a mist net and they were also the first species that I have seen roosting, after finding hibernating brown long-eared bats whilst at work. It was such a privilege to be in such close proximity to these mammals!

Which NBMP surveys do you take part in?
I currently take part in the Waterway Survey and Sunset/Sunrise Survey, but I have also taken part in the Field Survey in past.

What is your favourite or most memorable moment when doing a survey?
Most fresh in my mind is helping with a recent hibernation survey with London Bat Group and my new work colleagues in London. It was my first hibernation survey and it was an amazing experience, searching for bats in underground tunnels. Seeing my first Natterer’s bats in the tunnels, after a few minutes of searching by torchlight, has to be up there with my most memorable experiences.

What are the highs and lows of doing NBMP surveys?
One highlight was taking on a new site for the Waterway Survey a few years ago. It was reasonably close to where I lived but I'd never explored that particular area at all. I really felt like I'd discovered more about my local area and countryside. I don’t have many low points, but one obstacle – on the same survey – was coming against a wall of brambles and an eroded path, which made the route impassable. It was certainly an adventure!

Do you have a favourite survey site? Why is it your favourite?
My feet haven’t touched the ground much in the last few years and therefore I haven’t been at one place long enough to really call it my favourite. I have just moved so I hope that my new sites in Kent will be my favourites and that I’ll be monitoring them for many years to come!

What would you say to someone thinking about doing NBMP surveys?
Just do it! There are so many surveys to get involved with, no matter what your skill level. We all have issues with time and life often gets in the way of our best laid plans, but taking the time to record for NBMP really does make a difference.

Do you take part in other citizen science projects? If so, which and why?
I currently take part in a few citizen science surveys, particularly a number of bird surveys with British Trust for Ornithology including Garden BirdWatch and the Ringing Scheme. As well as having an interest in birds, I have previously worked for this organisation and understand the value of the data and fantastic scientific research being conducted. I also take part in a few other projects, such as the New Year’s plant hunt, Garden Wildlife Health and the Dragonfly Challenge to name a few

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