Thursday 2 December 2010

Winter Slumberland

Where do bats go in the winter? Kelly Gunnell looks for the answer in Scotland...

Going looking for bats in the winter seems like a fool’s task. It is common knowledge that bats just disappear at this time of year, to magically appear in the spring time. In this information age where we seem to know the answer to almost everything (or at least can find it in a few clicks); it seems absurd that we still don’t know where bats go to hibernate. The standing assumption is that the bats go to underground sites. Yet they are never found in these areas in the numbers to account for their summer population sizes.
Although, it is a rare thing to find hibernating bats, it is possible. While in Scotland recently for the Scottish Bat Worker’s Conference, I set out with local bat experts, Anne Youngman and John Haddow for a little batty adventure.

Our first stop was Doune Castle, made famous in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This medieval castle near Stirling, is made up of grey stone blocks framing a courtyard, with stunning views of snow-capped hills and golden-leaved woodland. In our search for bats I expected us to go down into some dungeon or dark cellar. But no, we found our first hibernating bats tucked into the crevices of the busy, well-lit, entrance tunnel! Why is it that bats never stick to the rules? Someone should give them a manual….
Peering into the jigsaw puzzle stone cracks, I felt a child-like glee. This was just like hunting for brown furry Easter eggs! We found about 6 pipistrelles in the entrance tunnel and adjoining rooms. But it was in one of the side cellars that we got our biggest surprise. Anne spotted two bats in the high arched ceiling and somehow could tell from that distance that they were not pips. At first, Anne and John thought they could be Daubenton’s but eventually decided that they were Natterers. What a treat!

The next stop on our bat adventure was Aberfoyle Tunnel. This is a disused quarry tunnel that John regularly checks for hibernating bats. With hard-hat, head-lamp and wellies I felt very Indiana Jones wading into the cold dark cave. Even with three people scanning the low ceiling for bats, we still nearly missed our bat. Anne’s sharp eyes spotted the lone brown long-eared hanging crystal like from the grey rock. I was thrilled to see how it tucked its ears under its wings so that only the pointy tragus sticks out. John explained that they keep their long ears under their wings to keep them moist. We didn’t find any other bats in the tunnel; apparently January and February are the best time to find hibernating bats there and even then it will only be about a half dozen.
It was a real privilege to see these few lone bats. Thanks to Anne and John for a great Scottish bat adventure.
In the meantime, the mystery of bats in winter awaits another explorer to unravel its secrets...

Kelly Gunnell
Bats and Built Environment Officer

Monday 15 November 2010

Welsh Project is a Winner!

BCT’s Wales Bat Officer, Steve Lucas, talks about an award-winning BCT project in South Wales…

Amongst the range of projects that BCT undertakes in Wales to actively promote a greater awareness of bat conservation, one has gained particular recognition - the Urban Bat Survey Project.

The Urban Bat Survey Project aims to record and map bat activity in the urban environment by engaging volunteers new to bat conservation and providing them with the skills needed to take part in these and other survey projects, such as the National Bat Monitoring Programme. In other words – the Urban Bat Survey Project is a jewel in the crown of the Wales Bat Project.

Funded by Environment Wales and the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project started in 2009 under the Count Bat Project taking place in Swansea, Cardiff, Neath and Newport. In Neath, 22 dedicated volunteers took part surveying 11 one kilometre squares. Overall in the project 228 volunteers took part surveying 108 one kilometre squares. Due to the success of the project, this year it was extended to Clwyd in north Wales.

I decided to enter the Neath element of the Urban Bat Survey Project into the Neath Port Talbot Environment Awards under the Action for Wildlife category – and I’m delighted to say that we won! The award was presented by BBC wildlife presenter Iolo Williams in recognition of the outstanding work that this project has done not only to gather new information about bats in the urban landscape, but also to train new volunteers to help deliver actions under the biodiversity action plan. The urban environment is an important area for people to get to engage with bat conservation and we need to ensure that bats are not disadvantaged by increasing urbanisation.

The ceremony was a great night and we all had an enjoyable time. It was a tremendous and fitting accolade for everyone who took part. Those volunteers who were able to be there on the night all felt really proud of this achievement - and so they should! Well done to all of them who continue to make this project such a success. Next year will be the International Year of the Bat so this is a great boost to 2011!

For more information about the Urban Bat Survey Project, you can read the full 2009 survey report.

Steve Lucas
Wales Bat Officer

The work of BCT in Wales is also financially supported by the Countryside Council for Wales. For more information, see BCT's website.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

A successful Halloween for bats

Fundraising & Membership Officer Harriet Henley talks about BCT's Halloween marketing campaign

So here we are in November with the discount pumpkins and rejected Halloween odds and ends being removed from the supermarket shelves and replaced with increasingly premature Christmas-themed aisles!

If you are one of our Facebook fans or Twitter followers, you will have undoubtedly been aware over the last week that Halloween is a big event at the Bat Conservation Trust. Every year we ask ourselves this question; should we do anything in recognition of Halloween and thus acknowledge the link between bats and this annual scare-fest? And every year we come to this conclusion; yes. Of course we should!
Bats are intrinsically associated with Halloween and as silly as this may be it’s not going to change any time soon. Bats are inevitably on people’s minds at this time so we try to use the build-up to Halloween as an opportunity to do some serious myth-busting and encourage people to embrace their furry friends that feature so prominently throughout the festivities. After all, we probably wont be seeing much batty action now until the spring, so why not give bats a good old send-off into hibernation by turning Halloween into a celebration of all things bat!?

That is exactly what some of you bat-fans have done, so I thought I'd share a couple of the things that people have done for bats this Halloween...

We had some fantastic entries to our Halloween competition; “Halloween night in the life of a bat”. There were comedic accounts, diary-esque entries and some impressive poetic feats. The competition was judged by our esteemed panel of expert judges… BCT’s very own Helpline, who decided that the deserved winner was Jennifer Duran from North Carolina in the USA. Jennifer’s fantastic poem describes a bat’s feelings about Halloween night and really echoes our mission this year to get people to celebrate bats at Halloween. (Read Jennifer’s poem)

On Twitter, Laura Thompson showed us some amazing bat lino prints that she’d made (pictured above). Laura says; “The prints are ATC (artist trading card) sized lino prints based on images from the royal mail mammals postage stamps. I basically did a sketch, transferred it to the lino, then cut it out and printed it. The image is a 'test' print and the second image is of the ATC's I made.”

An in another aesthetic twist Martin Roberts, a trainee bat worker in Dorset, launched his second album “Attack of the pipistrelles” at a pub in Bournemouth on Halloween. Martin will be donating all proceeds of the album launch to BCT for us to use for bat conservation – thanks Martin and good luck with the album!

And finally, check out Kazz Larkin's batty pumpkin carving, I think we'll all be following suite next year!

So all in all this Halloween has been a storming success, and people have really gone above and beyond to THINK BAT throughout the festivities. The highlight for me has been the amazing level of interaction and response that we’ve had from all you bat fans on Facebook and Twitter. So a huge thanks to all of you for getting involved this Halloween (and for tolerating our awful batty puns!)

Harriet Henley
Fundraising & Membership Officer

(Currently sitting in the bat cave, desperately trying to convert aforementioned puns into a Christmas theme – apologies in advance!)

Thursday 7 October 2010

Batting on the Fringe - An Orkney blog

By Anne Youngman

It's the old bat in the Attic here, I’m looking out into a grey sky and reliving fond memories of a recent trip to Orkney where the sun was always shining - even if it was through the rain, the birds singing and the toughest bats braved the chilly nights to reward hardy bat enthusiasts. Oh halcyon days and moonlit nights!

The reason for my trip was to do some training with a group of keen bat people to add to their field skills and keep enthusiasm high. It had been a rather “last minute” invitation and I was rather worried that we’d get no bats and the group would feel demoralised rather than encouraged. I was completely wrong!

Not only does Orkney have the toughest bats in the UK, I believe it has the hardiest bat people! We were out for three evenings (wrapped in hats, scarves, gloves, fleeces and thermals) and got bats two out of the three nights). And these weren’t just “ordinary bats” i.e. 45kHz pipistrelles, we got (cue the deep sultry voice, music and long pause ........) Nathusius’ pipistrelle!!

The bat was recorded by Effy Everis who thought it sounded rather low and slow and had a sneaking, tingling suspicion it was something different. She was right. It was confirmed as Nathusius’ by a panel of bat–boffins and was the cause of several celebrations in bat circles. Effy has recorded other tantalising bat sounds, not like typical 45kHz pipistrelle calls so watch this space for an update on the unexpected delights of batting in Orkney.
It really was a wonderful trip. I have lovely memories of a full moon so bright we cast shadows as we walked through the woods at night, of starlings singing under the wooden jetty of Stromness harbour, rainbows and seals singing sad songs and of an ever changing sky. If you’ve never been to Orkney go there and take your bat detector with you!

Anne Youngman (pining for sunlight, open skies and the long lines of the Orkney landscapes)

Thursday 30 September 2010

Holy mackerel bat woman – its bats in the belfry!

Anne Youngman’s bat blog

Batty old woman here, reporting from the attic on a brilliantly batty talk and walk that was held at Dunblane Cathedral on Saturday 18th September.

The event was organised by Historic Scotland’s very own Bat Woman; Natalie Taylor (also known fondly as Nat-the-Bat to her friends). I was “Robin” her beautiful assistant (Ha Ha).

Flocks of Dunblane folk gathered at the cathedral for a bit of an evening adventure. Their first task was a hunt to find the Cathedral’s own resident bat. Ben (only 9) found the carved bat miserichord under one of the choir stalls. It’s a rather strange bat, more like a cat with wings. Why it’s there and what its significance is, is a complete mystery (But if YOU know the explanation I’d love to hear it!)

Once the cat-bat had been located we returned to our pews. Natalie gave a lively talk with help from willing volunteers in the audience.
We were wowed by the wingspan of the Kalong (it really is long!) and our hearts melted at the sweet name of the Bumble bee bats.
We had fun testing our bat detectors with a sonic cat scarer and we were warned that our pipistrelles would make “rude raspberries” as feeding buzzes. Then just before venturing out into the night we met a very special guest “squeaker”; Catriona McBat.

Catriona is a pipistrelle bat who was found in the Dundee Library (We believe in the Natural History section!). She’d been on a “health farm holiday “ in Dunblane, i.e. sleeping all day and stuffing her face with mealworms all night, and was due to be released outside the library in a few nights time. She tried to tell us all about her adventures but sadly no one understood her squeaks! With Catriona safely tucked back in her box we all flitted out into the night, bat detectors at the ready.

We were very lucky as the weather stayed dry and despite the cool temperature there were plenty of bats around. We heard rude raspberries, wet slappies and grumbling Geiger counter noises - and that was just from the detectors! From the humans there were lots of squeaks of excitement and general bat chat.

When things seemed quiet we made a “hotspot” by standing close together. This attracts insects into the warm air above our heads and seemed to be a way of attracting the bats to come in closer too.
It was such a good night we’ve decided to do it all again next year! Watch this space!

Over and out,

Anne Youngman
The old bat in the Attic, Scottish churches House, Dunblane.

The bat care network:

Just like Catriona McBat, hundreds of bats find themselves injured or grounded and lost away from their roosts every year. For the majority, their chances of survival depend on the goodwill of members of the public and the hard work and dedication of volunteer bat carers.

Thanks to these volunteers, BCT is able to coordinate a bat care network across the UK. There are currently just over 300 bat carers in the network; some are extremely experienced and run bat hospitals, others do small scale bat care and some will only act as an “ambulance driver” or first aid help, preferring to pass bats on to more experienced carers where necessary. BCT also has contact details for a few wildlife hospitals who take in bats on a regular basis, particularly in areas where there are very few bat carers.

In areas where there are no bat carers available, callers have to be advised to take the bats directly to local vets, who can call BCT for information if they are not familiar with bats. There are some counties and areas where there are very few or no contacts and we are therefore always in need of new carers.

If your are interested in finding out more about becoming a bat carer, please email Xenia Snowman (

If you find a grounded or injured bat, please call the National Bat Helpline on 0845 1300 228 and we will provide you with details of any bat carers in your local area.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

The National Bat Conference: A first-timer’s perspective

By Kelly Gunnell, Bats and Built Environment Officer

It was a tough decision to make: a week’s windsurfing in Tiree or a chance to attend my first National Bat Conference? Well, of course I chose to go to the Bat Conference and I have no regrets!

As a first-timer to the conference, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The stories from previous years had really built up my expectations and the buzz in the office gearing up to it certainly added to the excitement. When the Friday came along, there was the usual hive of activity involved in trying to get things set-up. Lots of BCT staff (and thus equipment) had been delayed in traffic which meant that the membership stand and even aspects of the registration desk was a last-minute scramble. Luckily we all handled it with cool suave and I don’t think anyone noticed (right?).

The Talks...

As BCT organises and runs the conference not all BCT staff get to see many of the talks presented. However, as the new Built Environment Officer for BCT, I had a keen interest in many of the talks and was lucky enough to see most of the programme (in return I had to do a lot of microphone duty, but that is a small price to pay!). All of the speakers did a great job and the range and diversity of topics kept the audience interested and awake - despite the evenings being spent discussing bats (and drinking) long into the night!

The first talk, on the long-term bat monitoring project in Finemere Wood, set the bar high. I was most interested to hear that Daubenton’s, Brown Long-eared and Natterer’s seem to prefer shady roosts, whereas Pipistrelle’s will go for sunny and exposed bat boxes.

Roger Ransome’s presentation on his ten years’ worth of involvement on the Combe Down Stabilisation Project was fascinating. The amount of time and effort that has gone into the project is staggering. It was good to hear about the importance of ventilation for bat hibernation. I also learnt that foam concrete takes an amazing 6 months to cool.

It was a real eye-opener to learn about Turkey’s extensive cave systems from Emrah Coraman. Both the caves and the bats are under threat from cave-tourism and it was fascinating to hear how Emrah and his colleagues are tackling the problem. This talk was complimented by Dave Anderson’s talk on Sunday, which described the great lengths he has gone to discover and uncover caves in East Lancashire.

One of my favourite talks was by Emma Rigby which used Social Network Analysis to study the population ecology of Daubenton’s bats. Not surprisingly it was found that bats that roost together are almost exclusively found associating with each other during foraging.

There were two talks that looked at bat activity in the urban environment. James Hale showed how key landscape variables could be used to predict bat activity in Birmingham. He found that the NSL guild activity is highest where there is: lots of water within 100-200m; lots of natural landscape within 1000m; and low levels of buildings within 1000m. For common and soprano pips there was a strong relationship with total connectivity. Cath Laing used GIS tools to show that in Brighton bats are more likely to occur in areas with bigger gardens. Larger gardens are more likely to have greater insect assemblages because of the bigger trees. However, bat activity was not associated with street trees. This raises interesting questions for urban greening projects.

Workshops and dancing the night away...

The conference wasn’t all talks though. The workshops gave the participants a chance to engage more fully on a range of topics from Bat Identification to Sound analysis, Planning, Churches, Mitigation and even Wildlife Drawing. I did hear there was even a gate-crasher to the conference that came just for the Wind Turbine workshop!

No one could complain that the Conference Dinner was anything except entertaining. The very pink berry pyramid raised the odd eyebrow, the wine flowed pretty freely, Richard Crompton (one of BCT’s trustee we said goodbye to this weekend) did the rounds in his new Batman dressing gown and the Ceilidh had both participants and non-participants in stitches of laughter. After much socialising and networking, I made it to bed about 1:30am, unlike some energetic individuals who only stumbled to bed after 4am! I didn’t envy them on Sunday.

Although I have no previous experience to compare it to, it was still in my opinion a thoroughly successful National Bat Conference. I’m sure we are all glad for the lil’ break until the next one though!

Tuesday 31 August 2010

Bats thriving at Threave as first Bat Reserve opens

Anne Youngman, Scottish Bat Officer shows us round the first bat reserve in the UK

On Thursday 26th August the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) opened the first ever Bat reserve!!! Threave has at least 7 out of the 9 bat species that occur in Scotland and has to be one of the most beautiful places in Scotland to see bats. I was there at the launch and it was brilliantly batty. NTS have a “bat mobile”, a trailer which opens up into a portable bat display, complete with buttons to press, funky bat detector sounds and other night time noises. Everyone, adults and children enjoyed listening to the different sounds for each bat species.

The rangers took us around a “bat trail” showing us by day the best places to see and hear bats at night. In the near future visitors to Threave gardens will be able to borrow a bat detector and walk the routes themselves at dusk. There are two bat trails to explore.

Threave will also be used as a centre for bat studies. So any students who have an idea for a bat project – wing your way to Threave, it’s the place to hang out.

Thursday 3 June 2010

Fruit bats head west!

Helpline Officer Harriet Henley discusses how BCT’s Bat Helpline in the UK was involved in an exciting discovery in the world of Egyptian fruit bats…

As well as reassuring people who are nervous about bats, and giving members of the public and professional’s information and advice, working on the Bat Helpline also gives us a great opportunity to hear first hand people’s joy upon finding out that they share their home with these amazing creatures. In some cases we even get the privilege of being privy to some really interesting discoveries. Without a doubt, my favourite of these instances came about from an email sent to us in November last year, which ended up making a significant contribution to international fruit bat research!

It all began when I received an email from Iain, a British Citizen living in Fethiye, Turkey. He had managed to take a photo of a bat, which he had been aware of roosting in the roof of his apartment for a number of years, but that he had never before seen in the daylight. He wondered if we might be able to identify it for him.

Well, at BCT we love this kind of enquiry! The recipient of the photograph forwards it around to all staff with a caption along the lines of “prizes for the first correct identification of this bat!” and is then bombarded with replies containing peoples’ various suggestions. In this case, the responses from the BCT staff were unanimous; Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus).

I emailed Iain with the verdict and explained that although we don’t generally have “batty” contacts outside of the UK, we did know of one researcher from the Institute of Environmental Sciences at Bogazici University in Istanbul, who he may wish to contact for further information.

Now this is where things got interesting… on being contacted by Iain, our Turkish researcher contact forwarded the information to his colleagues in the Czech Republic, with whom he was studying Rousettus bats. Their response was one of extreme excitement…

“Great! It is really Rousettus! For me personally and the international team associated with the research project on the current status and history of the species in the Mediterranean and Middle East (the only resident population of fruit bats beyond limits of tropes) this is indeed big news, refining the range of the species in an essential way.”

A bit of background information is I think required at this point…

The species has a wide, but patchy distribution, ranging across Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, and in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey and Cyprus. Up until this point in the proceedings, the westernmost record of this species in Turkey (which corresponds to the most northwest margin of the global distribution of the Egyptian fruit bat) was Antalya. Fethiye is a good 200 km west of Antalya, which means…(wait for it!)…

Iain’s record of Egyptian fruit bats roosting in Fethiye represents BY FAR the most western marginal point of distribution of the species discovered to date!! And what’s more, his record spans several years indicating that this is an established roost!

Big news in the fruit bat world, and a great discovery to come via the BCT office!

As the Bat Helpline finished playing its part in the story arrangements were being made for one of the Rousettus research team to actually visit Fethiye to try and monitor the roost and determine whether it could be a satellite roost for a much larger colony that may be roosting nearby, so far undetected.

Discoveries of international importance only come about every once in a while on the Bat Helpline, but everyday the we have the fantastic opportunity to be part of new discoveries closer to home. It may be guiding a member of the public as they rescue a bat for the first time, or converting someone into a bat-lover and opening their eyes to the wonderful world of bats, or speaking to a householder who has discovered a bat roost in their home.

I hope this tale of far away bats has brought a smile to your face, as reliving the episode has to mine.

Long live bats, mega and micro!!

Harriet Henley
Helpline Officer
The Batcave

Rousettus Facts:

• Egyptian fruit bats usually roost in caves, unlike other tree-dwelling fruit bats.
• They roost in numbers from 2 or 3 to 2,000 individuals!
• Bats belonging to the genus Rousettus are the only fruit bats that use echolocation, and theirs is the only echolocation audible to human ears.

If you need help with a bat or advice about bats and their roosts, please call the BCT Helpline on 0845 1300 228.

Photo: Egyptian fruit bat. Courtesy of Iain McCulloch

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Scottish Easter surprise!

Leisler's bat. Photo courtesy of Hugh Clark

Anne Youngman – BCT’s Scottish Bat Officer (and first time blogger!) shares a rare batty discovery in the North East of Scotland

I just had the MOST exciting Easter ever. No Easter bunnies for me but bats instead. Not just any old bat, I’ve just seen my first ever Leisler’s bat. For anyone who can’t quite understand my excitement hang in there and I’ll explain……

Leisler’s bats are pretty rare in Britain, they can be found in the midlands and the south of England and if you look VERY HARD and are VERY LUCKY you might find some in Dumfries and Galloway (you’d then throw a party with all your batty friends to celebrate). This bat was found near Nairn on the North East coast of Scotland. Nairn is a lovely place for a seaside holiday but its hundreds of miles away from what bat people think of as “Leisler’s territory”.

The bat was found on someone’s settee. Luckily the white settee cover made it obvious; otherwise the brown bat on the brown settee might have been a flat brown ex-bat on a brown settee.

More good luck - the lady who found it had previous experience of bats and knew that this was too big to be a pipistrelle (the bat you are most likely to find in your house). She thought it was a noctule bat.

Noctules are big, sleek, gingery bats. They are closely related to Leisler’s. Finding a Noctule that far north would also be highly unusual and guaranteed to get bat workers in a flap of excitement.

She had the presence of mind to contact a local bat person to ask if anyone wanted to see the bat before it was released. By a process of “jungle drums” (well email actually) the message was relayed to bat worker Mick Canham who lives near Nairn and Mick went out to see the bat. He got a brilliant surprise...

He found a big bat, but instead of a big sleek bat this one looked rather windswept and slightly straggly. It was not a noctule but something even more amazing, it was a Leisler’s!

It’s a female, in good health and with a hearty appetite. (Mick has been feeding her up with mealworms which she munches with great gusto and obvious relish)

What it was doing in Nairn is a complete mystery. We have speculated (wildly) on what the explanation might be and come up with some batty theories:
1. Theory 1 - The bat “hitched” a lift from Ireland or South West Scotland at some time in the past and has been hanging out locally since. It was hibernating in the house and woke up after a change in the weather, got itself into the living space of the house, sat down (perhaps to watch TV?) and was found on the settee.
2. Theory 2 - There is a very small population living somewhere near Nairn (this seems very unlikely but a Swedish bat worker reported hearing Leisler’s bats with a bat detector near Aberdeen years ago)
3. Theory 3 - Something else equally unlikely occurred - If only the bat could tell us!

So what happens next in this batty story ……?

The bat will be released back to the wild once she has a good weight, good weather and has shown she can fly strongly. In the meantime she seems to be enjoying her winter holiday in Nairn, munching on mealworms and generally taking life easy.

Mick will be roaming around the Nairn countryside with a bat detector stuck to his ear in the hope of finding a local colony that has been undiscovered until now.

And for me – I’ve learned that where ever bats are concerned – expect the unexpected.

Anne Youngman
Old Bat
The Attic
Scottish churches house.

About the Scottish Bat Project
The Scottish Bat Project started in April 2003 and aims to: promote greater awareness of bats in Scotland; enable more people in Scotland to appreciate and enjoy bats and get involved in bat conservation; develop the network and activities of Scottish Bat Groups and run a number of conservation projects.
About Leisler’s bat

To find about more about the Leisler’s bat and other UK bat species visit the BCT website

What to do if you find a bat in your house?
A bat flying in a room is looking for a way out!
The Bat Conservation Trust runs the national Bat Helpline to information to the public about bats. If you need help, call the Bat Helpline - 0845 1300 228

Bats have a very sophisticated system for finding their way around in the dark, but despite this, some do end up getting trapped inside buildings. This happens most often between mid-July and mid-August when baby bats are learning to fly, and they are inexperienced in using their newly developed echolocation skills.
This means that when they are finding their way back to the roost after hunting they might crawl through the wrong gap or through an open window, especially if this window is beneath the roost entrance; they will then find themselves inside the house rather than in the roof.
Bats are very small and need only a very small space in order to gain access, so sometimes it can be very hard to tell how a bat got in.

The best course of action is to close the door to the room, and to open the windows to the outside as widely as possible, dim the lights and give the bat the chance to find its own way out.
Bats navigate by sending out high-pitched sounds and listening for the echoes so the bat should soon detect any opening that leads out of the room. If it does not find its way out it will roost somewhere in the room when it becomes light, and will appear again the following evening at dusk.
If you wish to search the room to ensure the bat has gone, the best places to look are in the folds of curtains and behind picture frames and other places that are high up and where the bat can roost out of the light. However, bats have been found hanging from the tassles at the bottom of an arm chair, so do check at a lower level as well.

NEVER try to catch a flying bat - you are likely to injure it severely

Sometimes young bats, which are inexperienced flyers, will become exhausted before finding the way out. They may try to land on a wall or curtains, or they may crash land on furniture or the floor. In this case, you should contain the bat, and then release it in the evening.

Thursday 18 March 2010

No hibernating for the Bat Helpline

Helpline Officer Harriet Henley shares her insights into her first winter on the BCT Bat Helpline…

Over the winter months I have noticed that there is one question that I hear more than any other when people ask me about my job… What do you do in the winter while all the bats are hibernating?

Well, I’m glad you asked!

This winter was my first as a member of the Bat Helpline team, and as the long summer months filled with endless phone calls about grounded bats, baby bats, catted bats and a plethora of other batty issues drew to a close, I admit that I began to look forward to autumn when the phone would inevitably stop ringing and things on the Bat Helpline would calm down. Voicing this feeling to my longer-serving colleagues, I was met with knowing smiles. Little did I know the hard work was only just beginning...

For starters, I am still waiting for the phone to stop ringing! Granted the sheer volume of calls is significantly smaller during the winter, but so is the Bat Helpline team.

Once the summer draws to a close and we say goodbye to the seasonal staff, we begin to readjust to a smaller team and attack the inevitable pile of advice letters that need writing.
As well as this, we begin to notice the subjects of phone calls change with the weather. People want loft insulation installed before Christmas, cluster flies set about their annual rampage, and calls start to come in from people discovering bats hibernating in some very odd places; a woodpile, an umbrella, a box of Christmas decorations!
There are hoards of planning and development queries, lots of people looking for consultants, and plenty of churches to give bat-related advice to.

And then there is the phone call that all Helpliner’s dread; “I’ve just been stripping a roof and have found bats hibernating under the tiles…” Those ones are a constant throughout the winter, and require a calm head, good advice, and a few urgent phone calls to local bat workers!

But after all that, the letters get written, the visits get organised and suddenly it’s March and we’re keenly awaiting the arrival of the new seasonal Bat Helpline staff, breath baited in anticipation of another busy summer saving bats.

Helpline Highlight:

One of the best experiences we've had on the Bat Helpline this year has been our recent visit to Essex to see bat workers Roger and Sylvia Jiggins. Roger and Sylvia took us around three churches and three barns to give us a better idea of the structure of these buildings, and how they can be used by bats. The day was a huge success, a good time was had by all and we were able to learn a great deal about bat roosts in these buildings, which will be an immense help when writing advice letters for these types of visits in the future.

Bat Helpline stats:

• The BCT Bat Helpline takes an average of 10,000 calls per year
• The busiest day of 2010 so far has been the 26th January, when 41 calls were taken
• Of calls taken in 2010 the most frequently raised issue has been bats, planning and development
• Since 1 January 2010, the Bat Helpline has organised 275 roost visits for members of the public who require advice about a roost or are carrying out building work or pest control that may affect a roost