Tuesday 20 October 2009

On trial for bat crimes

This month has seen two important bat crime cases come to court following the hard work of police wildlife crime officers in opposite corners of England and Wales. Dr Kate Barlow, Investigations Officer here at the Bat Conservation Trust explains how she has been involved.

The first case saw Mr. Ayob Bhailok, a solicitor from Preston in Lancashire, found guilty of two charges of destruction of bat roosts in Prestatyn Magistrates Court, North Wales. He was given a 6 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £2000 costs. The verdict was delivered at the end of the two day trial but was the culmination of a complex investigation carried out by North Wales Police and particularly by wildlife crime officer Sgt Rob Taylor. I got involved to help explain to the court the impact these crimes had on bat populations.

Mr. Bhailok was working as a consultant for Freemont (Denbigh) Ltd who wanted to develop the old North Wales hospital site, which contains a number of Grade II listed buildings. Denbighshire County Council granted outline planning permission for the site in 2006 which included a requirement for bat surveys to be completed. The initial bat survey was carried out and identified a number of bat roosts in the complex of buildings with roosts of one of Britain’s rarest bats the lesser horseshoe bat and brown long-eared bats in the former Bryn Golau ward of the hospital. Then in 2008 the Bryn Golau ward building was demolished. Despite the bat survey report stating that the building was home to a possible maternity roost site for lesser horseshoe bats and that Freemont (Denbigh) Ltd would need to obtain a license from the Welsh Assembly Government before any buildings containing bat roosts could be demolished. The licence was never obtained.

Sgt Rob Taylor discovered a partly demolished building, and bats had to be rescued and relocate to another building with help from a local batworker. Work on the development at North Wales Hospital stopped last November when the bat offence was detected and no work has been able to go ahead on the site since.

As part of the investigation, Sgt Rob Taylor asked me to provide a statement explaining the impact of the destruction of the roosts on the populations of the two species involved. We have been providing these statements for cases that reach the courts in recent months and they give background information on the bat species and populations involved to the Magistrates, who cannot be expected to be bat experts.

After a long investigation by Sgt Rob Taylor, Mr. Bhailok was charged with destruction of the two roosts in the Bryn Golau ward building. He denied the charges, arguing that he had passed on planning issues at the site to a number of consultants to sort out. Following the trial, District Judge Andrew Shaw said that Mr. Bhailok was responsible for giving the go ahead for demolition works to start on the Byrn Golau building, and found him guilty of the charges.

A week later Essex police called to let me know of another bat prosecution. Two companies, Hills Construction and North East Demolition were found guilty of destruction of a bat roost at Colchester Magistrates court last week and fined £2000 and £1500 respectively. A small barn was identified to have a brown long-eared bat roost in it during a bat survey of 2006 and the report from the survey recommended that a licence would be required. The surveyor then noticed in 2008 that the barn had been demolished and after checking found out no licence had been obtained. He reported it to Essex police who investigated and charged the two companies, the first were developing the barn and the second carried out the actual demolition.

With more bat crime cases reaching court it shows that bat crime is being taken seriously and will hopefully prevent crimes happening in the future.

What is bat crime?

Bats suffer persecution (harassment and cruel treatment) for various reasons. The persecution may be deliberate or reckless (e.g. continuing with roofing work even though bats have been uncovered) or may be due to a lack of awareness of bats and the places they live in (e.g. entombing bats in walls while re-pointing stonework.

Some of the problems bats may encounter include injury or death, loss of roosts or disturbance of bats for example when they are feeding young. Bats are especially vulnerable while females are pregnant or looking after young bats, and both males and females are vulnerable during winter hibernation.

Why are bats a wildlife crime priority?
Numbers of British bats have declined rapidly over the last few decades; as a result all bats and their roosts are now protected across the UK. Without protection this decline would continue. Wildlife crimes affecting bats have devastating consequences for bat populations either directly through killing of bats, or indirectly by removing essential roosts used by the bats. The law is there to protect bats and roosts but NOT to stop anything ever happening at a roost. It is designed so that bats must be taken into account when work needs to be carried out, and that any work that is done is completed in a way that causes the least disturbance to the bats, reduces the chance of injury and safeguards the availability of roosts.

What can I do if I suspect a bat crime?

If you suspect a bat crime, please report it.
Making notes (mental or written) at a scene, remember:
What is happening?
Who is involved?
Where – note the location precisely
When – note date and time.
Take photos (with camera, video or mobile phone) if you think it is likely that evidence may be removed, and only if it is safe to do so
Contact your local police station immediately. Explain that you think a wildlife crime is being committed and mention ‘Operation Bat’. This is the standard operating procedure for police dealing with bat-related crimes. Ensure you get an incident number from the police.
Let us know by emailing investigations@bats.org.uk or completing the incident report form on our website . You can also report incidents directly to us in this way, or contact the Helpline 0845 1300228.

- Directly approach suspects, leave that to the police
- Pick up any bats at a site. Contact the Bat Conservation Trust for further advice on what to do with grounded, injured or dead bats either by calling the Helpline 0845 1300228 or from our website:

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Teeing off for bats

The team hard at work. All images (c) Anne Youngman.

On Saturday 25th July, 2009, a band of 12 batty disciples (and two trainee bat sniffer dogs) met to survey Craigie Hill Golf Course in Scotland for the Perth City Bats Project, writes Anne Youngman, Scottish Bat Officer.

The weather was perfect; warm and dry and a moderate to slight breeze prevented overheating on the uphill climb. So armed with bat detectors, recording forms, luminescent jackets and torches - and fortified by (mini) Mars Bars we strode purposefully up the steep slopes of Craigie Hill.

The band split into three teams, (imaginatively named Teams One, Two and Three). Each team surveyed a different strip of the golf course. Teams started at the southern boundary and walked over a small hill and down the steeper slopes of the golf course to its northern boundary.

Team One had something to smile about straight away, their first survey spot appeared to be a blessed place with bat activity.

Team Two however got slightly lost on the way up hill. But fear not, they were guided back to their correct starting point by the waving of luminescent jackets and use of the world’s loudest dog whistle.

Team Three clearly had the added advantage with Paddy, the dog with X-ray eyes, helping them to look out for bats.

Sunset was at 9:37pm. The survey started at 10:00pm and the first bat spotted (by Team Two) was promptly after at 9:55pm.

Bat detectors at the ready, surveyors scoured the horizon for bats. The views over Perth were fantastic - almost a complete 360 degree panorama and while we were all taking in the smell of honeysuckle and enjoying watching and listening to the bats, Paddy the dog however, was smelling fox scent – well he was a trainee after all!

The survey finished at around 10:40pm with all three survey teams getting to see and hear bats. I’m happy to report no surveyors were lost in undergrowth or otherwise fell by the wayside and confess that in our newly acquired Bat-nerdiness, we counted the number of bats we saw even though this was not needed for the survey!

Team One got mostly 55khz pipistrelles, some 45’s and a mystery silent bat (which we decide to count as a possible brown long-eared) Teams Two and Three got mostly 45 kHz pipistrelles and one 55kHz pipistrelle. Other wildlife bonuses spotted were a fox and a toad.

Perth City Bats Project background

Grant aided by Awards for All and the SITA Trust, the Perth City Bat Project is the brainchild of Niall Lobley from Perth and Kinross Council Ranger service and Anne Youngman, Scottish Bat Officer of Bat Conservation Trust.

The aims of the project include:
•Raising awareness of bats in Perth
•Enabling volunteers to get involved in bat surveys
•Producing a map of “bat hotspots” within the city along with recommendations for maintaining and enhancing the city’s bat habitat.

A team of more than 40 volunteers have been given training and loaned bat detectors and recording equipment to carry out their surveys in the city in a patchwork of 1km squares. The general public is also able to add to the survey by sending their records of bat sightings to a Bat Map page on the Perth and Kinross Council website. Perth Bat Group will also be carrying out technical surveys to map bats in proximity to roads.

Thursday 20 August 2009

Bangkok bat

BCT’s global reach continues to grow. Our Helpline Supervisor, Gill Sanders(right), recently received an email from someone in Bangkok who needed advice about a bat they had rescued – and there is the happy ending!

I received a call from a woman called Chompoonuj who had found a bat on a ground in her building in Bangkok, Thailand.

As there was no rehabilitation centre nearby that she knew of and the vet was about 10 km away (and even then she felt the vet wouldn’t have been a bat expert), she emailed the BCT helpline.

When I spoke with her she explained that she had placed the bat into her shoe box, with a shallow dish of water combined with 10% carrot juice, a ripe banana and a piece of cloth at a corner. I asked her to put some gloves on and check it for injuries. She did this and reported no physical injuries, although she said it did seem to be frightened; which is not unusual.

Both wings spread out fine but only one at a time and there was a piece of dried fruit (half an inch) hanging on its mouth which she pulled out. The bat measured about two and a half inches long with a tail about one inch and a furry body but a hairless face.

I emailed her to let her know that what she was doing seemed in line with the advice we give out for short-term caring but from her description I couldn’t identify which species of bat it was. If it was eating fruit then my first instinct was to think it was a fruit bat but as they are larger than the description then this didn’t seem a possibility. I did, however, suggest that if it wasn’t eating the dried fruit then she should try to feed it with very small amounts of wet cat or dog food. And, after this, if the bat appeared healthy and active, then she should try to release it at dusk, as close as possible to where she found it.

I also advised that a small number of bats carry a rabies virus, so if she should continue to handle it always wear gloves, to make sure you she is not bitten or scratched.

Luckily I heard back from Chompoonuj later that day to tell me the good news. After 10pm, she had turned all the lights off and waited for the bat to emerge. Within five minutes, after complete darkness, the little bat became instantly active and climbed from the box toward the window edge....about a foot (it was found on the eight floor of their building, so we tried to release it from the next closest window) At the edge of the window it stopped, spread its wings, and ...wow...flew into the night.

Chompoonuj said it was a beautiful sight to watch and was very grateful for all my help with the little fellow.

Friday 31 July 2009

A brilliant batty weekend

Me helping out at the bat box building. (c) BCT

Last weekend I helped to organise the Bat Weekend at the Natural History Museum , writes BCT’s Count Bat Project Regional Officer, Ed Santry.

The event was a result of all the hard work of staff and volunteers at the Natural History Museum, Open Air Laboratories (a Big Lottery Fund initiative) and the London Bat Group.

It was a great day out for all the family and I am happy to say that we seem to have lots of fans out there who came along to see the BCT team and of course the bats. In fact, nearly 1000 visitors came along over the weekend and got to be part of the fun which included the batty arts and crafts tent where kids (and some adults – including BCT staff, ahem!!!) created bat hats, masks, and got their face painted. We also held bat box building sessions and visitors got the chance to see some bats up close.

Our lovely trustee, Kate Jones, also brought along some ‘bat ears’ for children and adults alike to have a play with. They mimicked the actions of a bat echolocating whilst flying at night, using sonar sound to help the people trying them out to get around without any sight (see photo). These provided much amusement to those watching people try and not bump into things…it just goes to show how clever bats really are!

I myself undertook the bat box sessions, which were great fun and there seemed to be some really good craftsmen and women amongst the future generations. Most people even managed to put them together without help from their parents (which is more than Sarah and Steve from our Communication’s Department did on their test run last week!). Everyone also got to take home their boxes to put them up and help encourage bats into their gardens.

But of course, the stars of the weekend as we suspected, were Jenny Clark from the Sussex Bat Hospital and her bats. Jenny kindly brought along nearly all of the ten species which can be found in the London area. As always, with her knowledge and wonderful presenting skills, Jenny made even the most skeptical of people bat lovers by the time they had been into the Wildlife Shed to visit her and see the bats up close.

It was such an eventful weekend and on the Saturday afternoon, we had London Tonight come down and film some bat box building and Jenny with her bats. I sneakily managed to avoid being filmed on camera, but all the people squeezed in the Wildlife Shed helped highlight the importance people are placing on wildlife conservation nowadays and the interest from the general public in bats– which is great news for us all here at BCT!

BCT staff were out in full force for the festivities. Our own Communications Officer, Sarah Wallace even got into the spirit of things by donning her Batgirl outfit on the Sunday to try and chivvy people along to the Wildlife Garden (where all the fun took place). She was seen swooping around the Garden throughout the day guiding people along to all the different activities we’d put on.

Our Education Officer, Shirley Thompson and Ken and Zoe Greenway from the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, gave inspiring discussions as part of the Natural History Museum’s Nature Live talks about bats. They covered topics such as where bats live, what they eat and the best time and places to go bat watching.

Most importantly though, aside from all the excitement of course, the weekend also provided the opportunity for our team here at BCT to reach out to the public about bat conservation and talk to them about the importance of helping us to monitor bats and how they can get involved through our Sunrise/Sunset Survey. Aimed at beginners, the surveys couldn’t be easier. The Sunset Survey simply asks members of the public to spend the evening in their garden and watch out for any bats that fly past. Record how many bats they see, which species they are (if known) and, most importantly, which direction they are flying from. The Sunrise Survey involves going out just before dawn to look for bats swarming before they return to their roost. All information then goes into our National Bat Monitoring Programme.

All in all it was wonderful weekend and, as with many of these sorts of events, it was great to see the support from bat fans and the general public alike. Seeing the change in people’s perception of bats - particularly when they see how small and cute they really are – is a real positive experience and spreads the word of the importance of these unique mammals.

Here’s to many more successful events in the future!

Tuesday 28 July 2009


The twins with mum. (c) P and M Grimsey.

We have a guest blog this week by our Out of Hours volunteers, Peter and Margaret Grimsey who had a rather interesting batty experience recently.

On the morning of the 29th June, we received a call from Martin Hoare at Stonor Park, to say that they had found a grounded mother bat with two babies. The idea seemed highly unlikely, but so was finding three grounded bats together, so we set off to investigate.

Stonor is one of England’s oldest manor houses. It has been owned by the same family for 850 years and is situated in beautiful parkland with a freely roaming deer herd. When we arrived, the inside of the house was cool, despite the day already getting gradually hotter; two metre thick walls tend not to warm up too quickly!

We found the three bats. All were common pipistrelles with one confirmed lactating female. Martin explained that certain doors of the old house tended to leak during wet weather and it was the practice of the housekeeping staff to put an old towel across the bottom to soak up the water. This morning the housekeeper had spotted the bats just before shaking the towel outside. With admirable quick thinking, she had carefully collected the brood in the towel and found a box to keep them in.

Once home, we always allow the bats to settle before making a full examination. However, that evening it did quickly become apparent that at least one of the bats was a baby (it was suckling mum!).
Over the course of that evening and the following morning, we gave mum wax worm innards, which she took immediately. The bat who wasn’t suckling took Esbilac milk formula from a paint brush, and both “babies” had a few licks of a wax worm innard.

On 1st July we examined and weighed all three:

Pip 45 Female, lactating, weight - 5gms, forearm - 32.7mm
Pip 45 Female, fully furred, weight - 3.8gms, forearm - 27.3mm
Pip 45 Male, fully furred, weight - 4.4gms, forearm - 29.1mm

At this point, we wondered whether the trio was actually a mum with female offspring and a male companion. However, over the following days, we got into the routine of supplement feeding which ever juvenile was not being suckled, and discovered that she was, in fact, suckling them both.

For the next few days we were leaving 20 worms for them each night and morning. The trio were disposing of up to 40 worms in 24 hours. So the juveniles were clearly feeding themselves.

By July 7th, all of the bats had shown signs of improved health and had increased in weight and measurements of their forearms. By the 10th July, the bats were self-sufficient and we had seen them all flying in their cage so we arranged with Martin to return to Stonor and release them. The weather, which had recently been wet and windy, looked like staying fine.

We had been thinking for some time how best to achieve release as we did not want mum to get separated from the juveniles. Clearly, the bat held at arms length method could not be used, and we also felt that an open box, put high up with the bats in, would be risky, as one bat might panic and fly out before the others were ready.

Eventually we made up a soft pocket from the hood off a body warmer. Our plan was to place the bats inside and then position the pocket in a suitable release spot. The bats would be warm and they could creep out in their own time after they, or at least mum, had the chance to recognise the surroundings. (We are fairly convinced, from observations made during previous bat releases, that bats can recognise the smell of an area.)

Martin met us and we decided to put the bats on a high wall under an overhanging fig tree. The bats were carefully lifted off their hot water bottle and placed on the wall in their cosy pouch at about 9pm. After seeing several faces peeping out of the pouch we watched mum fly off after about half an hour. We watched until it got too dark and mum returned several times calling to the babies, and we heard them respond. We were also able to pick up mum’s feeding busses as she over flew us. But it was too dark to see and the babies did not seem to have flown.

The following morning Martin rang us to say he had been out early to check and the pouch was still in position and dry under the fig and the bats had gone. We can only assume from this that the release had been a success.

We are very grateful to Stonor Park and Martin and Caroline Hoare for their help and care for the bats, and for giving us the chance to experience what we feel to be a very rare bat event.

Thursday 14 May 2009

An insight into BCT's Bat Helpline helpers!

Crystal Schintz has worked as a BCT Helpline Officer since March last year. Here she shares with you her lack of movie knowledge, what her role at BCT involves and her love of all things batty!

What do you like most about working for BCT/Helpline? I like the feeling that the work I’m doing is making a difference for British bats. It’s great when you take a call from a frightened homeowner wanting to get rid of the bats they’ve just discovered in their loft, but by the end of the call, they’re referring to their little guests as ‘my bats’ and wanting to know how they can help keep them safe and happy.

Tell us about an interesting call you’ve had recently. I’ve recently had a gentleman ask if he could post me an injured bat from Scotland because he didn’t have any bat carers near him. Other bats have been reported to be eating stiletto shoes or leaving footprints on counters after eating all the fruit in the fruit bowl.

Which native bat species is your favourite (and why)? The long-eared bats are ridiculously cute and their sweet little faces have a remarkable ability of melting even the coldest of anti-bat hearts. I also have a bit of a soft spot for our very own “Lonely George” – the one and only greater mouse-eared bat in the UK.

Somebody calls saying they think they’ve got bats in their house but they’re a bit freaked out. What do you tell them? The truth! Bats are good guests - They do not chew woodwork, fabric or cables, nor build nests, and there is no known health risks associated with their bat droppings. A small number of one species of bat in the UK (we have 17 species) do carry a rabies type virus but there is no risk to a homeowner unless handling a bat. If a grounded bat was found, handling the bat with thick gloves (and contacting the BCT helpline for advice) would remove any potential risk.

My advice would be to invite over your friends and family for a BBQ and watch the bats emerge from their roost at dusk – it’s really cool to see! And as an added bonus, the bats eat loads of those pesky little midges!

Is there an actual big red flashing ‘bat phone’ that you all take it in turns to answer? You know, when I started at BCT, friends kept asking me that and I didn’t get it the reference - I blame the fact that I grew up in the countryside for my lack of movie knowledge. It has since been explained to me, but I’ve still never seen any of the Batman films…disgraceful, aren’t I? Oh right, back to the phone. If by big you mean normal sized, by red you mean black and by flashing you’re referring to the small red light that flashes when it rings…then yes. Yes there is.

It’s usually tigers, monkeys or polar bears that get all the conservation attention in the media. What drew you to help bats? The fact that tigers, monkeys or polar bears get all the conservation attention in the media! When’s the last time you saw a polar bear echolocating (the sonar used by bats to navigate) or a monkey flying? Bats are truly remarkable mammals and deserve just as much help as tigers!

Batman looks like he can handle himself pretty well – so why do bats need our help? I think they’re really misunderstood and sadly suffer a bad reputation as a result of some negative media and myths. Plus it is quite largely a result of human activities that bats need help (loss of natural habitats, destruction of flight lines, encroachment on feeding areas, building and development etc), so it is really rewarding that my activities as a human can repair some of the damage done!

Monday 27 April 2009

Talking the bat walk

A common pipistrelle on the wing -- as seen in Regent's Park
(image: Hugh Clark)

BCT's Biodiversity Officer Lisa Hundt helped lead last week's bat walk in Regent's Park -- and did a brilliant job, we might add. Here she reveals her heretofore unknown weakness for red liquorice laces and explains why happy, healthy bats are good for the environment and us, too!

How many bats did you see?
I would say that for the first 15 minutes I could count exactly how many; it was three and I spent that entire time biting my nails wondering if they were going to desert us in our hour of need! Once we got down to the lake there were so many bats looping around foraging that it was difficult to tell, as the same bat will pass by a number of times. I would make a guess at about 40 to 60.

Drawing on your extensive and expert knowledge, what species were they likely to be?
I am slightly intimidated by the words ‘extensive’ and ‘expert’, it might be digging me a hole! The two main species of bats we saw were soprano pipistrelle and common pipistrelle bats. They were the bats that were foraging by the lake, often flying in quite close in what looks like an erratic manner, but they know what they are doing. The other species noted was a noctule bat, which has a slower call. This one was heard by the lake and along the path on the way back.

Judging by their enthusiastic loops and twirls, the bats in Regent’s Park seem pretty healthy and happy. Would you agree? And what does that mean for us humans?
Yes, the bats did seem on form that night. They were making the most of the good weather and stocking up on food in preparation for the inevitable periods within the British summer when the weather turns and there aren’t as many insects for them to feed on.

Bats are great indicators of a healthy environment, which means that if they are happy and healthy, then the environment that we live in is happy and healthy too. This is why it is so important to preserve areas they use. That way we preserve the environment for us to enjoy and for all the other species that live there as well.

Walk highlight?
Getting to the lake to see the pipistrelles foraging.

Walk lowpoint?
Not being able to take a cheese plate with us!

If people are interested in going on a bat walk, what should they do?
If you are interested in learning more about bats and going on a bat walk the best place to start is by contacting your local bat group who will often organise events over the summer. Look on the BCT website to find your nearest group.

Would you like to make a bat walk shout-out?
Bat walk shout out goes to Jenny Clark and her bats. Brilliant!

You’ve only been with us for a few weeks – how’re you finding it so far? Maybe you could tell us a little about what you do at BCT?
My role at BCT involves a bit of everything; lobbying, commenting on consultations for draft policy, working with Natural England and other organisations on initiatives such as the Biodiversity Action Plans (BAP), drafting guidance documents, as well as supporting BCT projects. I am finding working for BCT interesting, fun and rewarding -- as you can tell I am still at the point where I am full of enthusiasm, which I hope will continue.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Something you might not know about me: I am a PADI dive master and have a weakness for red liquorice laces.

Friday 24 April 2009

Regent's Park bat walk extravaganza!

This the route we took (pretty much) for last night's bat walk in Regent's Park. The weather was perfect and there were lots of bats about. It's great to know they're still whizzing about the skies of London, if you look carefully enough.

Special thanks to all our supporters, especially the Regent's Park crew who provided the venue.

More on the walk soon!

Friday 27 March 2009

Preparing our defences against a deadly threat to bats

Little brown bats with WNS in New York
(image: N Heaslip)

We're really worried here at BCT by the spread of White-nose Syndrome (WNS), the mysterious condition that has killed literally hundreds of thousands of bats in the northeastern US.

Here's how Bat Conservation International's Annual Report 2007 - 2008 described the situation:

‘Emaciated bat carcasses literally piled up in the snow outside hibernation caves in the northeastern United States last winter, imposing an almost desperate urgency on scientific efforts to solve the mystery of White-nose Syndrome – perhaps the worst ever threat faced by North American bats. [T]housands of bats died of this unexplained malady… with mortality rates exceeding 90 percent report at some hibernation caves. Whole species are at risk, and the danger of WNS spreading to other regions is unclear.’
First confirmed in bat colonies in New York in 2006, WNS had spread to Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts by 2008. So far this year it's already been found in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

No conclusive evidence of WNS has been found in the UK or mainland Europe but a number of cases of dead bats with fungal growths similar to the tell-tale signs of WNS have focussed concerns. What would happen if WNS was found here or in wider Europe? It could have a devastating impact.

So what are we doing about it? BCT has developed WNS guidelines for bat workers and other users of hibernation sites in the UK and wider Europe. Plus, we're working to raise awareness and encourage vigilance amongst the public. Now there's an urgent need to develop and implement a WNS surveillance programme, as well as formulate plans to ensure a rapid and coordinated response to WNS in the event that it is discovered in this part of the world.

You can find out more about WNS and what we're doing about it on our website. If you're able to make a donation to support this work, please donate online. Your support, no matter how large or small, will make a difference.

Thursday 5 March 2009

While bats sleep our NBMP team are hard at work

Hard to spot: a sleepy looking Daubenton's bat peers out from a crevice
(image: John Altringham)

Right now it's certainly a quiet time for bats, writes Sarah Ford of BCT's National Bat Monitoring Team. They’re currently in hibernation and licensed surveyors have been busy visiting hibernation sites over the last couple of months.

The surveyors' results are starting to come in so we’ll soon have an idea of how many bats and which species have been spotted. The most commonly encountered species in hibernation sites are Natterer’s bats, Daubenton’s bats, lesser horseshoe bats and brown long-eared bats. Rare species found include barbastelles, Bechstein’s bats and the UK’s one and only greater mouse-eared bat!

The UK’s most common species, the pipistrelles, are conspicuous by their virtual absence, as they tend to roost in nooks and crannies in trees and buildings rather than open structures that surveyors are able to explore. It’s not always an easy task finding the bats as they tend to hide away in tiny gaps and crevices, making them very difficult to spot!

Unfortunately, this quiet period for bats doesn’t quite translate into quiet time for the NBMP team! We’ve been using this time to compile our survey results from 2008 in order to produce bat trends for the UK. It’s also the build up to the busy summer survey season so we’re in the process of speaking to volunteers and confirming which surveys they’re interested in taking part in. We’ll soon be preparing the survey packs, and making sure everything is in place for the summer.

The only thing we can’t prepare for is the weather, so fingers crossed that it’s sunny and dry this year!

If you’re interested in taking part in an NBMP survey this summer please contact me or visit our website for more information. You can also see survey and species maps for our 2007 and 2008 results, all thanks to our many volunteers.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Yay -- fans!

It's really great to see people becoming 'fans' of our Facebook page. After a few days of trundling along with just two fans (that would be Neil and Steve, the enthusiastic duo comprising BCT's communications and membership team), we're now at 76 fans -- and counting! If you're a fan, not only are you a star, you're also helping to spread the word. And if you're not a fan yet, could you become one, pretty please? Our mission is to build a happy thriving community of bat-friendly people.


PS. You can find our Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bat-Conservation-Trust/61956872921

On bat crime and budgets

A cluster of brown long-eared bats in a roof void
(image: Hugh Clark)

Yesterday I attended the annual Partnership Against Wildlife Crime conference, writes BCT Chief Executive Amy Coyte.

BCT is delighted that bats remain a priority for the police in terms of wildlife crime – this is much needed given the level of crime reported by our Investigations Project and thanks to the excellent partnership work between the police, bat workers, government agencies and our investigations officer.

The minister's address (Huw Iranca-Davies) was heartening in that he is clearly committed to tackling the high level of crime against our wildlife. However this commitment is yet to be seen in terms of the action which might follow it. RSPB highlighted the fact that the previous Scottish Environment minister’s interest in this area has enabled Scotland to put together a well-backed strategy which is currently being implemented and in which we all have high hopes. The question is, can such energy be galvanised in England and Wales? The minister’s reply was once again hopeful.

It was great to see so many Wildlife Crime Officers present at the conference but they expressed their concern about the low priority given to wildlife crime by the police force. The winner of the WWF Wildlife Enforcer Officer Award clearly felt that he would not be able to keep his interest in wildlife crime if he was to be promoted within the force. This does not bode well for the excellent work carried out throughout the country by these police officers.

I came away from the conference with the question -- how can enforcement of our wildlife legislation act as a deterrent when the fines given out in sentencing are so small? Developers continue to ignore the law and their action results in the direct persecution of bats. Currently fines are less then the costs of an ecological consultant and mitigation measures.

BCT will continue to prioritise raising awareness and training to prevent crimes occurring in the first place, although it is clear we could all do more to address the cases that continue to arise. And as always the great challenge is capacity. I look forward to talking to the BCT team and to batworkers throughout the UK to establish where our energies our best placed in the field of wildlife crime. What can we do best with the extremely limited resources we have available to us?

On that note, today I am concentrating on our budgets for the financial year ahead!

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Looking for widgets

Know anyone who'd be able to help us build a batty Facebook widget to spread the word about BCT? Please drop us a line!
We're hoping such expertise won't be as hard to find as Britain's most elusive bat, the Bechstein's (although we're working on that).

(Bechstein's bats: John Altringham)

Monday 23 February 2009

A bat walk, eh. What's that like?

We often get asked this question here at BCT. Well, we reply, a bat walk is a chance to see and hear bats in their natural habitat -- flitting through the trees, skimming over the water -- usually at night. It's really rather magical, and a fantastic way to explore your local environment.

Philip Briggs, of our National Bat Monitoring Programme (NBMP) Team, explains:

The essentials for a bat walk are a good bat foraging habitat (such as a park, woodland or lake) that is accessible for people to walk around at night, and some bat detectors to hand around that enable the bats’ ultrasonic calls to be heard.

Normally bat walks are preceded by a talk on bats in general and the species that are likely to be seen or heard at the site. This may take place outdoors at the start point of the walk, or can involve an illustrated talk inside a nearby venue. How much other wildlife gets pointed out depends on the wider knowledge of the bat walk leaders, but few people can resist stopping to listen to the calls of owls or watch foxes, badgers and even toads that are spotted roaming around at night.

This is what you might hear on your bat detector -- a pipistrelle, Britain's most common bat. Or, if you're really lucky, a greater horsehoe.

If you'd like to find out more about bat walks in your area, amble over to our website or email Bat Group Officer Laura Dunne.

(Scottish sunset: Anney Youngman)

Friday 20 February 2009

Hello and welcome!

Hello and welcome to BCT's new blog! Okay, so there's not much going on right now -- our batty blogs are still in hibernation, as it were -- but that's all set to change as we head into spring. Stay tuned for some exciting blog-ness from the bat world!

PS. In the meantime, why not send a batty e-card from our website? You can check us out on Facebook and twitter too.

(Ultrasonic brown long-eared: Steve Parker)