Friday, 23 November 2012

Helpling bats recover in the aftermath the wettest summer for 100 years

2012 has been a memorable year,  with massive celebrations and sporting events happening across the country however for conservationists it will be remembered for all the wrong reasons; with the wettest summer on record and the year Ash dieback struck Britain.   With the winter weather predicted to be just as unpredictable our wildlife is facing a truly challenging time.

In spring our Bat Helpline (0845 1300 228) received calls about known bat roosts which had been present for years and years which were now left empty.  In the summer we received 50% more calls about grounded, injured and baby bats than ever before.  Sadly the same stories just kept on coming; bats found grounded on the floor exhausted and unable to fly due to lack of food and the worst calls of all, calls explaining how maternity roosts had formed but that the mothers could not find enough insects to supply their babies with the milk needed so they were forced to abandon them in order for their own survival. 

The weather is still not on our side heavy rain has meant that bats have had a constant uphill battle to eat enough insects and build up enough fat stores to survive the winter. Now when bats should be hibernating we have been getting reports of bats flying at night and even during the day. Some bat workers believe this is a desperate attempt by these bats to get in enough insects to survive the winter, but the pickings will be slim and with the recent cold,wet and windy may well left these bats more drained than when they set out.

How many will survive this winter? We don’t know, but more importantly will next year will be better for them? What we do know is that we can prepare and give bats a fighting chance by acting now so that when bats wake after the winter that there is the food, shelter and habitats that they need to survive.

Bats need a connected landscape with hedgerows, waterways and trees, so they can travel safely between their roosting and feeding sites.  Over the winter we’re working with partners to protect habitats and create wildlife rich meadows, forests, gardens and parks and build new sites to shelter bats.

We’re already making headway on this, maps of the landscape have been developed from a bat perspective allowing us to show planners and local authorities where the important bat sites are and we are giving advice to foresters and woodland owners on how to protect bat roosts from felling and how to create woodlands for wildlife. We’ve published a new guide Landscape and urban design for bats and biodiversity. We’re also continuing to lobby governments to ensure that the roads, railways and lighting that slice through the landscape do not act as barriers to bats, blocking bat flight lines, severing the hedges that link their habitats.  Most recently we have also been working with the Forestry Commission working on a plan of how to protect bats whilst halting the Ash dieback.

Julia our Chief Executive sums it up nicely

“We know there are huge challenges ahead, as creating landscapes for bats is ambitious, but we’re already making progress and if bats are to survive we have to create the spaces they so desperately need”

With this in mind we’re appealing for donations to help us support landscape scale conservation efforts helping to provide bats the food, water and shelter that they need to survive. 

The struggle to conserve our unique bats is greater now than ever before and with that in mind we are asking for your support. Please donate to our landscape appeal. Even a small amount really does help us make a difference.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Will bats have a Happy Halloween?

The Bat Conservation Trust's Director of Communications Heather McFarlane explains why she'll be going batty at Halloween
All over the world bats are popping up, in supermarkets and in pubs, hanging along school halls and peeking out of windows. Nope - this is not a sudden population boom, the bats we see at this time of year regrettably are mostly made of plastic.   

Three cute pipistrelle bats
photo - Catherine Beazley/BCT
For those of us that already know and love our British bats it is hard to see how such tiny, gentle and social creatures could ever have got tangled up in such a spooky image.  Our bats eat moths and midges not bite necks and suck blood. Even more peculiar is that come Halloween our bats will most likely be hibernating not flying around derelict mansions.

Isn't it strange that for most of the year bats are not at the forefront of peoples’ minds then at the time of year when they are disappearing from our skies they are seen all around us for all the wrong reasons.
 BCT pumpkin
So why does the Bat Conservation Trust embrace Halloween?
While bats are not spooky they are dark and mysterious, that’s part of their appeal, and Halloween is all about celebrating magic and mystery, so perhaps hanging up plastic bats isn't such a strange thing to do.  Bats are an icon for a night time world very different to our own and there is still so much to learn about them. Some people do find the unknown scary personally I find it thrilling, it is what makes bats so captivating.

So if nothing else Halloween is a great time to celebrate the mystery and beauty of bats.  But for me there are other reasons why I think the bat conservation movement should hijack Halloween for our own ends. 

 Halloween is a great day for bat myth busting!

BCT Helpline
It is often said that fears stems from misunderstandings.  Here at the Bat Conservation Trust this is where we can help!  Our Bat Helpline (0845 1300 228) is there for any questions or concerns about bats and to help with any injured bats found. In my experience people aren’t scared by plastic bats, but it is often misheard information that sets people on edge. Not only are bats not blood suckers, they are not going to get caught in your hair and they won’t cost you the earth if you want to build a loft conversion, just a little bit of planning.  So at a time when everyone is aware of bats anyway, we can insert the much needed facts and information into the bat fiction whilst celebrating the wonder of bats at the same time, perfect! But there is one more thing about Halloween that really means it should be for bats.

If people are decorating their living rooms with bats and eating bat shaped sweeties why can’t get bats get something out of it too? 
BCT's Shirley Thompson at the
Whitby Goth Weekend
If we had a £1 for every bat image used at Halloween so many more bats could be protected! So with this in mind we have developed a Halloween fundraising pack.  Our hope is that people will download the pack and transform their Halloween celebrations into something positive for bats.  If you are celebrating Halloween we’re hoping you’ll go on our site, downloaded our pack full of Halloween activities and ideas, pick up a few bat facts and do a bit of fundraising and myth busting at the same time. To be honest using Halloween to benefits bats is nothing new the wonderful Whitby Gothic Festival patrons  and stallholders have been fundraising around Halloween for the last 15 years.  They have held raffles, bring and buys, auctions and asked for donations at the annual festival raising over £30,000 to date!  This year we hope people all over the country will help us raise £3000 for bat conservation over Halloween.

The rest of the year we celebrate the other side of bats; we work with everyone from policy makers to schools to build the association between bats and healthy environments whether they are urban parks, woodlands managed for wildlife, or homes and buildings. Between spring and autumn we build the image of bats darting across warm summer skies at events and in the media.  We give people the chance to experience bats first hand in the hope that they will associate bats with evenings spent bat watching in night-scented gardens. But in October as the nights draw in and bats head for hibernation we shift our focus, we try to spark people’s imagination, some people will have never thought more deeply about bats than as a Halloween decoration but and we try to get a few more people hooked on bats longer term, or at the very least give people the chance to learn a little more about bats and their conservation needs.

So maybe next weekend I’ll be packing away the bat detector for the year and dusting off the glittery bats wings ready for a fancy dress party (but I certainly won’t be wearing any fangs!). And when Halloween rolls round I’ll tell everyone about what my costume means and gently explain how we can help out our mysterious creatures of the night all year round. So this October I hope you all have a very Batty Halloween!

If you are interested in fundraising for the Bat Conservation Trust visit for lots of hints and tips and to download our pack

Friday, 28 September 2012

Megan Seehra - Full time Student and Part time Bat Fundraiser!

Welsh student Megan Seehra, blogs about her astonishing walk for bats!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always raised money for numerous charities; whether it was putting boxes in my parent’s local village shop for people’s spare change, doing bake sales, quizzes, or – as I have done most recently – doing a sponsored walk in and around my university in Wales. 
I’ve never thought of myself as particular creative or sporty, but when it comes to raising money you can do pretty much anything! Donation tins, car boot sales, sponsored events, bake sales – the Bat Conservation Trust even gets some money when you donate empty ink cartridges!

Me and a couple of friends decided to undertake a 500 mile walk (over the course of a few months – we are at university as well!) and each chose a charity we wanted to raise money for – I  chose the Bat Conservation Trust! Luckily for us we are at a fairly small, rural university in Wales, with a beautiful landscape – so there were plenty of routes we could walk!
So why did I choose to raise money for the Bat Conservation Trust?
 The Bat Conservation Trust is a brilliant, underrated charity that support a threatened, also underrated mammal – not many people realise it, but in the UK bats make up over 25% of all mammal species’; unfortunately the number of bats in the UK has suffered immensely, due to human influences such as wind turbines and the destruction of their natural habitats.

  The Bat Conservation Trust is not only here to protect the bats of Britain, but also to educate the public about the importance of bats, and how we can help protect them too. It is for this reason that I chose to raise money for the BCT!

Megan Seehra - Bat Conservation Trust volunteer

If you are interested in fundraising for the Bat Conservation Trust visit for lots of hints and tips.

Huge thanks from everyone at the Bat Conservation Trust to Megan fro raising a whopping £400 for bats!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Anne Youngman heads Doune the Rabbit Hole

Scottish Bat Officer and (in her words) uber cool bat chick, Anne Youngman, blogs her first music festival: 

“Hi dudes, peace and ultra sonic vibes man.......I’ve just been to my first ever music festival, Doune the Rabbit Hole. It’s gone to my head and I now think I’m really hip. There was; VERY LOUD music, oceans of mud, a faint whiff of herbal cigarettes and naked people! It was all a bit of an eye opener!
But why, I hear you ask, was our normally sensible Scottish bat officer hanging out at a music festival???? (There were times when I asked myself the same question, mainly as the rain poured down and rivers of mud swept through the tent like something from a disaster movie.)  There is a good reason...For the last two years the “Doune the Rabbit Hole “music and arts festival has been held in Doune, the next village to Dunblane. Hundreds of families attend and enjoy a weekend of music, camping, pic-nics, face-painting, storytelling, dancing, theatre and everything you could think of that goes with enjoying the outdoors EXCEPT.... there was nothing batty. Not a squeak, not a whisker. What an omission. What a wrong to right. This is a job for ........superman, NO! This is a job for Central Scotland bat group and Bat Conservation Trust. So we boldly went where no bat people had gone before, Doune the Rabbit Hole. (Except this year it was not at Doune but in Forestry Commission woodland near the Carron Vale reservoir, a beautiful area near Stirling.) A van was packed with; BCT tent, displays, arts and crafts materials , BIG FAT CUDDLY bat toy , leaflets, stickers, bat boxes, detectors, lumi jackets, torches, uncle Tom Cobbley, a big hairy dog and of course some volunteers and off we went . I have so say arriving on site my heart sank a little. Everywhere was muddy; the pristine white BCT tent was never going to be the same again. Then to add insult to injury our pitch was next to the chemical toilets. On a positive note it did mean we could quickly nip to the loo while there were no queues.

Andrea (From CSBG) and I set too, we pitched the tent, set up tables, displays and art stuff and had all of 20 minutes to admire the results when the sky went ominously dark. It was an omen of things to come...There followed the most torrential downpour imaginable. Water cascaded from the sky more like waterfalls than rain. It battered the roof of the tent, deafening us with the noise and within minutes rivers of mud were coursing through the tent threatening to sweep away the dog! And then.... the sun came out and we gently steamed from soaking wet to slightly damp while the dog’s hair went into lovely crinkles (as if specially crimped for the festival). After setting up the BCT tent we set off to pitch our own tents for sleeping in, thought “Sleeping” is a very overoptimistic description of the nights activities. Very little sleep was achieved over the weekend, mainly due to the undulating ground and gnarled tree roosts we were laying on, the drumming of rain and the drumming of drums. Some people did manage to sleep though; the person in the tent next to me snored all night!

Saturday was wet, very wet. Lots of children visited our tent and made bat badges, lots of adults came and told us their bat stories and asked questions about bats and I’m sure some people came in just to shelter from the rain.

The real star on our stand was a captive bat. The sight of him melted lots of hearts and fascinated people. We got the usual comments about how tiny he was but one odd question when someone asked if the mealworms where his babies! On Saturday night we offered a bat walk. We were quite excited as we’d found a perfect route. A safe path took us through wildflower meadows and between woodland edge and a reservoir. Perfect bat habitat. We were looking forward to pipistrelles flitting around the trees, Daubenton’s skimming over the water and possibly even some Natterer’s whizzing over the grassland. The rain, which had been a steady downpour conveniently stopped at 8:30 pm, the time to start the walk, the sky went pink and a small band of batters set off ready to tune in with our detectors. We saw; fish jumping, frogs hopping, a rescue helicopter searching for a missing man but the one thing we did not see was a bat! Not even a “pop” on the detector. It’s the first bat walk I’ve ever done and not got a bat.
Sunday was our last day at the Festival and Andrea and I were joined by Alistair also from Central Scotland Bat group. He brought good weather with him and the sun shone all afternoon. This meant we were visited by lots of happy people and it meant we could pack up the tent in a relatively dry condition.

We all left very grubby rather tired, but happy that it had gone well. It was quite an experience. Driving back there was the most perfect rainbow, it all felt very apt after our rather hippy batty weekend. My top tips for anyone taking a display to a similar event:
  • Take wellies and waterproofs (essential)as well as sunscreen
  • Take thick sheets of cardboard - to use as flooring if the ground is muddy
  • Have loads of layers to sleep in / on/ under
  • Have loads of plastic boxes to stand things in
  •  Have plastic boxes with lids – to protect leaflets etc from the rain 
  • Take loads of baby wipes and some kitchen roll – you’ll be constantly cleaning things
  •  Pack midge repellent
  •  If you can take pallet to provide a raised surface above the mud to stack things on 
  • Pray for good weather
 Signing off and chilling out Anney- Bat-Chick

Friday, 6 July 2012

It's Just Not Summer Without Bats

BCT's Heather McFarlane laments the bad weather and praises the volunteers and staff who are trying to make sure that despite the clouds there is a silver lining for bats.

2012 is no ordinary year and as far as the weather goes it seems pretty strange. We had a heat wave in March, a drought in the South East, floods in Wales and Northern England and the wettest April and June on record. While this wet and windy weather has been interrupting Wimbledon, dampening national celebrations and washing out back garden barbeques, what I have missed most of all is our bats. I haven’t really seen any and it just doesn’t feel like summer without those fast moving shadows darting across the skies as sunset.

Bat Above my Garden, by Richard Carter. Licensed through Creative Commons.

I am not the only one to notice that it has been a somewhat bat-less summer. Recently I was in Birmingham promoting bat-friendly gardening and hundreds of people told me they hadn’t seen their bats this year either.

Could it be the weather?

I was asked what was behind the “bat-less summer” and in truth we just can’t say for sure. We know bats face long standing environmental pressures, and our bat populations are thought to have declined by 70% in the 20th Century. But recently here at BCT we have also seen unusual activity on our Bat Helpline. Just a few months ago the phones were ringing off the hook with reports of grounded bats. There was a 50% increase in calls in May about bats that had ended up on the ground unable to fly away. It looks like many bats emerged from hibernation only to for the inhospitable, cold, wet and windy weather to return.

Pipistrelle by Dave. Licensed through Creative Commons.

Being a bat is energy intensive. You are small, you have to fly to catch up to 3000 insects a night, and you face a nightly struggle to find roosts, safe commuting routes and hunting grounds. Poor weather means that there are fewer insects around for you to eat and makes hunting more difficult. If you don’t get enough food then, just like a human, you can become weak and get exhausted. When bats get too weak to fly, they can end up stuck on the ground, exposed and vulnerable.

Luckily, thanks to the work of Bat Helpline Officers, volunteer bat carers and concerned members of the public, many grounded bats can be saved. My colleagues give advice on how to safely move bats to safer places using gloves, tea towels and shoeboxes. They can help callers keep a bat in a safe container, with a bit of water in a bottle top for it to drink. In more serious cases a volunteer bat carer will often be needed. Trained in how to care for these tiny creatures bat carers can often rehabilitate bats before releasing them back into the wild.

Rescued Bat and Suckling Baby Bat by Steven Allen. Used with permission.

But by early July, the Bat Helpline phones should be ringing with different calls. By now, the Bat Helpline is usually busy with home owners reporting maternity roosts or people who’ve found a baby bat taking a wrong turn and ending up in the bathroom! But this year it looks like many maternity roosts have remained empty and abandoned with no mothers returning and no baby bats being born in there. Our first baby bat call arrived nearly a month late and we only had about 20 calls about baby bats by the end of June. These few babies will be in for a tough time because they only have a few weeks to feed up before autumn and hibernation. If the weather doesn’t improve for bats, bat mothers will have fewer nights to hunt, there will be fewer insects to catch and little time for the young bats to learn how to fly and hunt for themselves. We may well have some more exhausted bats later in the season.

But we don’t know yet if this summer’s weather is behind the reports of empty roosts and grounded bats, or whether it will have long lasting consequences for our bat populations. However, thanks to the National Bat Monitoring Programme volunteers we will find out. Volunteers are out scanning the skies and counting bats going in and coming out of roosts so that we can build up a picture of how bat populations are faring and what’s affecting them.

Hedgerow in Suffolk by Tom Need. Licensed through Creative Commons.

Like many people who haven’t seen bats this year, I feel like a part of summer is missing and I don’t know when it will come back. But in the meantime here at BCT we hope our bat walks aren’t washed out, and we continue to work for bat friendly practices in woodlands, cities and rural areas. We’re also grateful that volunteer bat groups and roost visitors all over the country are working tirelessly to ensure their patch is the best it can be for bats and that bat carers are on hand to help grounded and injured bats. And while it is not easy to sleep at night knowing the skies are empty outside my window, I know when summer does arrive we’ll have made Britain better for bats and for all of us too.

Do your bit for bats - support the Bat Helpline today!

Let us know on Twitter if you’ve donated: @_BCT_ or #BatlessSummer

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Adventures in Bat-Sitting

In our second Volunteers’ Week blog post, volunteer bat carer Morgan Bowers takes us through the thrills and spills of looking after our beautiful bats!

It’s the middle of May as I write this, and I’m currently experiencing the calm before the storm. Female bats all over the country are establishing maternity roosts and will soon each give birth to a single pup. By July, bat carers are often inundated with juvenile bats. It was during this time in July 2007 that I began my bat care journey.

Five years ago, I let my local bat group know I was interested in doing bat care. After training with a local carer, I had my first solo bat call: a juvenile Pipistrelle from Wolverhampton. As is often the case, it had been found in a hallway, with no mother bat to be seen. This often happens with juveniles, because as they get stronger and start to explore, they can become separated from the roost.

Baby bats are usually born in June. They are very small and have little fur. When their mothers go out to feed in the evening, unsupervised babies sometimes end up in strange places in the house (e.g. the kitchen sink or shower) as they are small enough to fall down tiny cracks next to pipes or between floorboards.

If you've found a baby bat, you must get expert help as quickly as possible. There may be a bat rehabilitator near you who can assist. Call the Helpline on 0845 1300 228 to find out.

Morgan's first bat - a juvenile pipistrelle

After caring for the bat pup overnight, I managed to get it back into the roost and saw it reunited with its mother – a rare sight, as pups are notoriously difficult to return to the wild. After seeing that, I was hooked! That’s why, when I’m training bat carers now, I try to ensure that their first bat care experience is a release – there’s something really special about seeing an animal that would otherwise have died flying back into its natural environment, healthy and free.

Five years later, I am now the Bat Care Coordinator for my area, and I’m busy recruiting and training new bat carers. While so far in 2012 I’ve only had six bats in care, the busy ‘bat season’ tends to run from April to August – though I had three separate Brown Long Eared Bats in September last year!

One of the Brown Long Eared Bats from September 2011.

My most recent bats were a pair of male Soprano Pipistrelles who were found in a mop bucket, soaking wet. I named them Cain and Abel because one was very grumpy and the other really calm. While naming bats is a split issue amongst carers, I’ve come to recognise the power of publicity and social media in particular: people have amazing responses when they’re able to follow the rescue, recovery and release of individual bats. Invariably, every bat that I have gains a horde of cheerleeders! After about a week in care, Cain and Abel were returned to the wild in the first double-bat-release I’ve done. It was an incredible feeling to see them go – as good as that first pup five years ago.

Video still from the release of Cain and Abel, Soprano Pipistrelles.

While I volunteer with the Birmingham & Black Country Bat Group, I recently returned from a visit to the Florida Bat Conservancy, where I got to meet bat carers over there. I was also lucky enough to say hello to a very rare Florida Bonneted Bat named Bonnie. It's good to remember that there are people all over the world going through the daily emotional roller coaster that is bat care - because, of course, not all bats survive. In the UK, bat carer support networks are available - contact for more information. Inspired and encouraged, I am ready for Bat Season!

Morgan meeting a Florida Bonneted Bat

If you’d love to help but don’t have time to be a bat carer, you can adopt a bat and make a real difference to bats in the wild! You’ll get an adoption certificate, species leaflet and magnet, newsletter updates (with poster!) and – best of all – an adorable Soprano Pipistrelle bat buddy to call your own.

The Bat Conservation Trust would like to say a huge thank you to Morgan and all the other volunteer bat carers across the country. Check out our website for more info about becoming a bat carer and to get help with bats.

Friday, 1 June 2012

To the Bat Phone! Life as an Out of Hours Bat Helpline Volunteer

This week (1-7 June) is Volunteers’ Week, and BCT would like to say a huge thank you to all the volunteers who help us out – on our Bat Helpline, at our headquarters, visiting bat roosts, leading bat walks and caring for ill or injured bats. To celebrate Volunteers’ Week, we’ll be uploading a series of posts by volunteers to find out more about them, their roles and the bats they’ve met and helped!

Our first guest post is by Michelle Clark, who is one our our invaluable out of hours National Bat Helpline volunteers. We're not sure if Michelle's phone lights up like the Bat Phone, but we do know she does a wonderful job!

If you need help with a bat, please call the National Bat Helpline on 0845 1300 228 or visit the Bat Conservation Trust website.

I have been a volunteer for the Bat Conservation Trust’s out of hours Helpline service for four years. I answer calls from members of the public who phone the National Bat Helpline after office hours and at weekends from May until September. When I’m on duty, the Bat Helpline is diverted to my home phone.

I’ve answered a wide range of enquiries – what to do with an injured bat, how to handle a bat flying around inside the house, and calls about possible roosts within residential and other buildings. I provide information and advice about how to care for bats and, if a bat is injured, I put the caller in touch with a local bat carer to who can provide specialist care.

I really enjoy being able help members of the public with their bat questions and concerns. People are often worried when they first call as they know very little about bats. I love being able to go some way to introducing bats to people and helping people understand these amazing creatures a bit better. I also feel it’s a great way to engage with members of the public and I think every encounter is valuable. Occasionally, I get a caller who has quite a negative view of bats, so I try to understand their point of view and give them the facts about bats. I’ve learnt a lot since starting on the Bat Helpline. It’s improved my confidence in talking to people about bats so much that I lead my first bat walk last year! I don’t think that would have happened without being a volunteer on the Bat Helpline.

Michelle enjoying the great outdoors with her daughter.

I used to work for the local council as an administrator, but since having my daughter last year, I’ve become a full time mum! I’ve been interested in bats and wildlife for many years and assisted with local surveys and counts with local groups and the ranger service. I am now thinking about the future and what it may hold for me. I would like to use the skills I have developed to pursue a new career, possibly in education. Whatever I do, I suspect bats and wildlife will definitely be a part of it. I’d love to help enthuse the next generation about bats and bat conservation, and help ensure that bats survive for my daughter to enjoy!

Michelle’s daughter is still a bit too small, but we have some great resources for young people - and for teachers. Young people can also join the BCT's Young Batworker Club and receive our Young Batworker magazine three times a year (best for ages 8-16).

Find out more about volunteering with BCT.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Variety is the Spice of Life

Lisa Hundt, Head of Biodiversity at the Bat Conservation Trust, explores the connections between bats and tequila!

Today’s the day to celebrate the variety of all living things - it’s the International Day For Biological Diversity! Biodiversity includes all mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, plants, fungi . . . everything including you, me and bats!

This variety is essential for the planet and for our way of life. It providing us with essentials (e.g. oxygen and chocolate) and luxuries (e.g. really good chocolate). The diversity of bat species is no exception. In fact, there are more than 1,100 species of bats worldwide, making up around one-fifth of all mammals - and these bats contribute more than most people know to the world’s healthy environment.

This was beautifully demonstrated last week in a talk by Dr Rodrigo Medellin, International Year of the Bat Ambassador. He was in London, to receive the 2012 Whitley Gold Award from Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal (Princess Anne to you and me!) for his work in conserving bats in Mexico and Latin America.

Medellin explained how much we owe to Mexican bats. Mexico has 138 species of bat – including the lesser long-nosed bat that is partly responsible for the pollination of agave plants, the plants which are used to make mescal and tequila! But while bats are good for tequila, tequila is not always good for bats. In the majority of tequila production, farmers harvest the plant before it puts out the flowers that bats feed on and pollinate. Instead, these plants are only allowed to reproduce through cloning. All tequila plants in one farming area have been traced to less than a handful of clones – not a lot of biodiversity there, and with severe consequences. For example, disease has recently killed off more than a third of the agave plants in some areas, something that might have been avoided by allowing the plants to flower and reproduce through pollination. Medellin hopes to persuade tequila producers to allow 1-2% of their blue agave plants bloom, creating a food source for bats and increasing the robustness of their crops.

Medellin also discussed recent research on neotropical bats and their role in forests. These forests have suffered clearing and fragmentation, while hunting and disappearance of habitat has meant that some populations of large bodied animals like deer and macaws have been wiped out. Without these animals, many large-seeded plants have no way of dispersing their seeds . . . or so it was thought!

Recent research has looked at seed dispersal both at random through the forest and underneath the tents of tentmaker bats.

These studies have shown that the number of large seeds under the tents is higher than would occur at random. These tiny (and adorable!) tentmaker bats might be playing a crucial role in the dispersal of 44-65 large seeded plant species throughout the forest.

Closer to home, bats are an essential part of our own native wildlife. With 18 different species here in the UK, they make up almost a third of all mammal species and can be found in lots of different places like wetlands, woodlands, farmland and even your own loft.

They can tell us a lot about the state of the environment, as they are top predators of common nocturnal insects and are sensitive to changes in land use practices. This means that the pressures that they face - like landscape change, development, and habitat fragmentation - are also relevant to many other wildlife species, making them excellent indicators for the wider health of the UK's wildlife.

If you want to help monitor bats and the health of our environment, you can sign up to take part in the National Bat Monitoring Programme.

This video provides an overview of the work of Rodrigo Medellin and his continued conservation efforts to protect bats and other animals in Mexico and Latin America, and goes some way to show why we were extremely lucky to hear a talk from him.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Goths and Bats: A Match Made in . . . Whitby!

On the first day of Whitby Goth Weekend, our resident goth Jess Barker explores the affinity between goths and bats.

Since the birth of goth in the London Bat Cave club thirty years ago, goths and bats have tended to roost together. A quick google shows the mass of goth-targeted bat gear out there, from tights, jewellery, skirts and bags, to the more unusual bat carnival outfit and odd bat doll... thing...

Inexperienced young goths are called 'baby bats', elder goths are sometimes ‘batcavers’, and the most goth of all are said to poop bats! Both species frequent trees, and while only goths don their finery, some fruit bats do rather appear to be wearing leather trench coats. We’re also both somewhat misunderstood groups – far more friendly and fluffy than expected when you get to know us!

BCT volunteer Shirley Thompson discusses bats with goths at Whitby Goth Weekend in 2009

Then there’s the Whitby link. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was partially written in the North Yorkshire town – now home to the major biannual goth gathering, Whitby Gothic Weekend. Stoker found the name ‘Dracula’ in the town’s Public Library, and scenes in the book feature Drac first arriving in England during a ship wreck off the Whitby coast. The novel was made an early link between bats and vampires, and was the first to establish the myth of vamp to bat shapeshifting. These days, visitors can stay at the Bats and Broomsticks Guesthouse, or buy a Whitby Jet keepsake in the shape of a bat.

A child meets a tiny bat at Whitby Goth Weekend in 2009

For all intents and purposes, I can be considered a goth (although accurate classification within this subculture is complex). Like goth music, I was born in the early 80s. By 16 I had grown into a ‘baby bat’, in 2000 I stayed in the Bram Stoker building in the Royal Crescent for my first Whitby Goth Weekend, and last year I got the most goth job ever – working on the Bat Helpline for Bat Conservation Trust!

I’d seen the bat stall at the Whitby Goth Weekend market, but it was only when I started working for BCT that I became aware of how much goths do for bats. Since 1995, Whitby goths have, via raffles, bring and buy sales and bat merchandise, raised over £30,000 for bat conservation. At the November 2011 event, they brought in a grand total of £1888.22 - everyone at BCT would like to say a big thank you for that fantastic achievement!

Having become a BCT volunteer and membership secretary of the London Bat Group after finishing my seasonal work on the Bat Helpline, I was in a good position to find other goth events to fundraise at.

Jess selling bat pins at London club Reptile in 2012

Inspired by the lovely goths at Nottingham goth night Batronic, who used a combination of fundraising techniques to collect in aid of BCT at their launch night in January, I have now sold pins at London club Reptile for the last two months. There’s been a great response to the little metal brown long-eared badges, and I’ve enjoyed answering bat questions. Very few people realise that there are so many British species, and I generally get an ‘awwww!’ at the news that bats purr! Fortunately for me, Reptile has a good outside area, as making my bat spiel heard over the music inside can be tricky! I’ve also been experimenting with information signs and posters inside the club. Last month word had got around and some of the goths approached me to ask for a pin, often making donations greater than the suggested £1. Not long before I become known as Bat Girl, I suspect!

A BCT bat pin featuring the brown long-eared bat

BCT will soon have the new Bechstein’s bat design and more of the Lesser Horseshoe bat badges in stock. If you would like to sell bat badges at your local goth event visit our pin badges web page, or contact Teph Ballard on

Have a great Whitby Goth Weekend!