Thursday 26 October 2017

Twilight Bat Walks at Mid-Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust – A summary of 2017

by David Jackson

Now that the autumn season is upon us, it provides a great opportunity for the Mid-Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust (MEHT for short) to reflect on another hugely successful Bat Walk Programme.
All bat species in the UK are endangered, with populations declining over the past decades; these fascinating mammals are protected by law.  Bats are also a biological indicator species, meaning their presence illustrates high ecosystem functionality and good environmental management.  At the MEHT, we are proud to have high bat activity around the Broomfield Hospital site, with a bat roost of soprano pipistrelles known within our Estates building.  Both soprano & common pipistrelles have been found foraging within our natural areas, feeding on insects during their summer months and highlighting our effective natural management.
Bat walks offer a unique educational opportunity to experience these intriguing creatures, and in 2016 we launched an inaugural Twilight Bat Walk Programme, led by a local bat enthusiast.  The walks proved to be a huge success, providing education in an endangered species whilst promoting healthy walking alternatives within Broomfield Hospital.  Following on from these walks, a larger Twilight Programme was produced for the summer of 2017.

A staggering 400% increase in participation occurred, with over 100 individuals expressing interest, comprising of staff, patients and members of our local community.
Marium, a former Trust Doctor stated ‘I and my three friends thoroughly enjoyed the bat walk, the guide was incredibly knowledgeable.  We heard about the opportunity after a friend was enthusiastically posting about it on Facebook after attending a previous walk!’
Carol, a member in the local community quoted ‘It was a fascinating evening using the monitoring equipment and identifying the sounds.  It's excellent that the hospital invites the public and hosts community events.  The guide’s enthusiasm and passion for bats was lovely to see and it's great to be able to share knowledge’
David Jackson, the bat enthusiast, and now the Trust’s Sustainability Project Coordinator said ‘It’s been great to see the walk participation increase so quickly…educating those in our community about endangered species is hugely valuable to their future conservation, whilst achieving it through the promotions of an active lifestyle.’
Bats are now moving to their hibernation roosts, but keep a look out for promotional materials when the Twilight Bat Walk Programme returns next year.

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Bat House extraordinaire!

Darren Henwood contacted the National Bat Helpline recently with a desire to find out more about creating an ideal residence for bats. Darren has now created an extraordinary bat house which he is hoping will be appreciated and used by bats in the area of Essex where he lives. We decided to do an interview with him for this blog to find out more.
Darren Henwood with his 7.5m wide bat house in the background. 

Darren created roughly 21 square meters of accommodation for bats!
1. Can you remember seeing your first bat?
Yes, I saw my first bat when night fishing with my dad when I was about 5-6, made me jump at first but he said to relax and keep and eye around the bushes hanging over the waters edge, my first bat was part of a considerably large amount of bats! :) Looking back there must have been hundreds that night...

2. When did you first contact Bat Conservation Trust and why?
I had recently built a wooden garage at our home, and as we were keen to expand from the chickens we had to more livestock and some conservation factors too, we decided to build a bat roost/home on the flank end, also we had become privy to knowledge that a derelict, old, old pub on the corner of our road (the only other building on it in fact) was due for demolition, so this inspired me to "go big" and try to encourage any residents there to re-home here, I suspected there may have been horseshoe bats and pipistrelles as the roof damage looked promising for both to be there, from what research I had done anyway :) I wanted to basically re-iterate these findings and researched info with a nexus of the right info, so the BCT seemed a logical choice, and Grace was fantastic help sending info to answer all my questions and with some varied plans, so I used this information with that I had researched to try and couple all the elements into what you have called the BHE (which we love here btw!)

Darren is looking forward to the bats moving in
The design is based on the Kent Bat Box

3. What inspired you to create this magnificent bat box/house?
Most of what I said in question 2 is covered for this question, however I also have a keen technology mindset and wanted to be able to get cameras and bat listening devices set up in the BHE so that when (hopefully) it is occupied and I can no longer "intervene" things would be in place to enable the family and I to observe from the house, phone or even at school/college... :) Also once this is in place, if there is any data or information that would be of use to the BCT or other people keen to home bats, then that would be equally fantastic!

4. Do you have a favourite UK bat species? 
I have no favourite species, although my first memories are that of what I now know to be Pipistrelle bats, so would be keen to see them again, and have built a fair %age of the BHE for them to hopefully enjoy, also the lesser horseshoe bat has been accommodated for with plans from both the BCT and other online shares by enthusiasts, I kept the options lower for them as I believe there is a less habiat for the pipistrelle around us, but with all the essex clad barns etc, I think the horseshoes have a good shout in our area.. but then I'm only a few months into checking this all out, so.........
That said, any species would be welcomed as there is the added bonus that we can spend more time outside at night with less chance of being munched on by annoying biting insects :D

5. Any weird/wonderful bat facts or bat experience that you want to share with us?
Nothing that's going to turn heads sadly, but have previously had a bat fly into my landing net when it was set up to dry in the breeze at dusk, I now leave my nets on the ground till daylight/bat free hours :D

6. Why do you think bats are misunderstood or undervalued by so many people?
Late 50's horror films, old wives tales and Christopher Nolan. I would say they are undervalued by people as I feel there is very little useful information generally available, people have to actively seek information, and I suspect many people don't understand or know half of the species (all animals) in this country that could really do with a little help from us Humans... If you asked 100 people if they would have bats roosting in their eves or an eves/wall box they would probably shun them thinking they are blood sucking dirty monsters,,,

7. In your opinion, what is the biggest threat faced by bats?
Ignorance to their need for safe, undisturbed habitat/s and destruction without thought of existing habitat, as we think happened just up from us here.

8. Huge thank you for what you are doing. What advice would you give others who might consider following your example.
Ask questions, no matter how stupid you think they are to recognised bodies such as yourselves at the BCT, I had no practical/useful knowledge of bats so I immediately searched for a good, reliable source of information, as I said earlier Grace was very helpful and I would say anyone wanting to help maintain and help with propagation of bats should ask first, asking isn't a silly thing to do!