Friday 22 November 2019

Interactive bat sound board by Nick Cull

At Gressenhall Museum of Norfolk Life in August I was helping Lindsey Bilston run the Norwich Bat Group stall, as part of an event called “Our Common Heritage” organised by Norfolk Wildlife Trust.  Here I displayed an interactive bat board that I’d developed.  The board was designed to be an innovative way of getting people to associate the silhouettes of different bat species with their identifying calls. 

The black bat shapes were painted onto a white card background using a special electric paint that conducts electricity when touched.  Lines are painted connecting the shapes to a small computer, or Touch Board that acts as a MP3 player.  Touching a silhouette triggers an electrode on the Touch Board to play an audible file of a bat species call.  The sound is heard from a small speaker connected to the Touch Board.  The Board is powered by a 3.7V polymer lithium ion battery.  Both the Board and the electric paint were bought from Bare Conductive.

I painted the silhouettes with the help of a stencil that had been laser cut from a thin polypropylene sheet.  Producing the stencil involved scanning bat silhouettes onto a digital file then using software to arrange the images to create a suitable layout and converting this to a compatible file for the laser cutter.  Although the images were reduced in size to fit onto a 60cm x 40cm area, the sizes all remained in proportion to one another.   After the painting was finished the card was mounted onto a rigid acrylic sheet so it could be propped up.  The Touch Board, battery and speaker were fixed in position and bat sounds downloaded from the BCT website and uploaded to the Touch Board, with a bat species call allocated to each electrode.

The finished bat board was displayed at the Norwich Bat Group stall and visitors were invited to touch the silhouettes to activate the sounds.  The bat calls acted as a kind of magnet for people’s attention with children describing the raspberry-like noises and contrasting them with other more ‘clicky’ sounds.  We were very lucky having excellent sunny, dry weather that allowed the electric paint to conduct.  Damp conditions would have made conduction much more difficult.

Overall, I feel that this was a worthwhile project that could be easily replicated and improved by any bat enthusiast.  A neat fusion of tech, art and bats.

Friday 8 November 2019

‘Living with villagers’ for bat conservation in Nepal

by Sanjan Thapa
Sanjan Thapa

“Living with Villagers”, my personal initiative attached to Small Mammals Conservation and Research Foundation (SMCRF) an innovative volunteer project for Bat Conservation kicked off back in 2012-13 from Madi, Sankhuwasabha District of North-eastern Nepal.  (Thapa 2014; Ware 2014) (read more about this project in a previous BCT blog HERE).

During my bat conservation awareness projects including Rufford Small Grant (RSG) first project (which you can read about here) Bat Conservation international funded project (read more here) and RSG second project (more about this here) I observed Nepalese people have negative attitude towards bats in most parts of the country. 

They have the misconception and misbelieve of bats as ghost, witches as they are seen flying at the night. They conceive bats bite, prick their eyes or urinate on their body. At western part of Nepal, people blame bats for damaging the horns of cattle and goats. In Chitwan, bats are blamed for damaging Rhino horn. Some nomads, tribes such as Chepang hunt bats as bush meat for subsistence. The hunted bats, now is not only limited for meat consumption in their households but also to sell in the local remote markets at Saktikhor, Chitwan District (Dahal et al. 2011). In the past it was believed, bats killed and fed to cattle cure Babeosis (Acharya et al. 2010), however, it is not a general practice nowadays. Similarly, Newar communities in the past believed, bats killed, dried and dipped in oil cure ear bugs, baldness, and paralysis (Tuladahar-Douglas, 2008).

Glimpses of conservation awareness activities during Living With Villagers project at Shakti High School, Gorkha
Government has neglected bat conservation, neither formulation of conservation plans and policies are neither prioritized nor are budget allocated for its conservation. However, Government officials are positive towards conservation of species other than mega and charismatic fauna including bats. The role of bat conservation is up to the effort of Non-Government Organizations and individuals. Funding for the conservation of these species is generously supported by International agencies. A few bat conservation projects have been carried out including surveys in different parts of Nepal, most of them in remote areas. These projects run for a short period of about two months in each project area. The effectiveness of the projects is sustained only during project period, and the project aim could not be achieved completely because of the project’s short duration. Moreover, the available fund is very limited or very little for the conservation of species like bats. With these realities in mind, a longlasting, effective, self-sustaining project “Living with villagers for bat conservation” was planned.It is a volunteer project, without any financial support from other sources. During this project there will be substantial visits to be made to villages and suburban areas and interacting with the villagers. It has three objectives; educating the schoolchildren, raising awareness through the outreach materials and surveying the species diversity. First two objectives are expected to inform about bats, their role in ecosystem services and change the misconception about them. Subsequently, it will benefit in long-term conservation of bats in Nepal.

Mr. Dibya Raj Dahal operating a double unit Ana Bat II and Zcaim detector at Udayapur field
After Madi, I joined another school, Sharada High School at Barhabise, Sindhupalchowk District in North-central part of Nepal. I joined the school as Biology Teacher and stayed there for about eight months during 2013-14. However, I could not continue the project except disseminating conservation education posters to the schoolchildren and other students.

I joined an Ecosystem Management Project as Field Officer in Udayapur in 2014 where we continued the awareness activities during August 3-25, 2015 at Triyuga Municipality, Udayapur District in South-eastern Nepal (Thapa 2015) (read more about this here).  Besides, the awareness activities, one of my colleagues Mr. Dibya Raj Dahal stationed at Itahari in eastren Nepal joined me and we conducted a bat survey at 15 localities in and around the Triyuga Municipality during April 2016.  We deployed roost survey and mist netting to capture bats. We recorded altogether four species of bats Cynopterus sphinx, Megaderma lyra, Taphozous sp., and Pipistrellus spp. We recorded bat echolocation calls deploying a double unit Ana Bat II and Zcaim detector donated by Jacobs, UK.

After my stay for more than two years in Udayapur I went back to Kathmandu and was looking to go other districts to continue this project. After more than one year of 2015 Nepal Earthquake, I joined Shakti High School as Biology Teacher in the Head Quarter of the Gorkha District in Northwestern Nepal.

Just after three months I had joined the school, all of sudden, I got an email from Ms. Caroline Ware, who had visited to Madi back in 2012 and observed the initial project activities. She was a staff at Natural History Museum, London. I was excited when I read her email that she is already in Nepal in November 2016. I invited her to Gorkha. As usual, she was accompanied by Ms. Ang Diku Sherpa, who is associated with Dunsmore Nepal Textile Trust and Allo Nettles Cloth Production Club.. Mr. Ganesh Shrestha, a M.Sc. Zoology student from Central Department of Zoology, Tribhuvan University was conducting thesis on bats in Dhading District. He also joined the team. At Gorkha, the team conducted school awareness activities in the school where I was posted. We conducted a half an hour lecture in which we delivered about bats and its conservation importance to schoolchildren. We emphasized on ecosystem services provided by bats, direct and indirect benefits to human beings, such as pollination, seed dispersal, and pest regulation. Documentary show “Secret World of Bats” was screened for 45 minutes. Besides, we disseminated some conservation educational materials including leaflets and poster from SMCRF, booklets, resource packs, newsletter, and post cards from Bat Conservation Trust (BCT). Documentary show “Secret world of Bats” from Bat Conservation International (BCI) was screened on the white board using a mini pocket projector and a laptop supported by IDEA WILD.
School children with bat conservation message posters after the documentary show

Handling captured bat at Deurali Bungkot Cave
In the local hotel where Caroline and AngDiku stayed at Gorkha, they met an Engineer Nabin Shrestha from Deurali Bungkot, Lakhan Thapa Rural Municipality who was working then in Daraundi Hydropower Station. The team was convinced and planned to visit a cave roosted by bats near his village as suggested by Er. Shrestha. We travelled off road about an hour in a local bus and reached the Bungkot bus stop, we contacted the concerned person who could guide us and waited for half an hour to receive him. We walked next 20 minutes to the house near by the cave.  We visited the cave in the evening. At the time of sunset we administered a mist net Ecotone 9m*2.4m at the entrance of the cave.  We captured an individual of Rhinolophus affinis. We also operated a SM4BAT ZC detector and recorded some calls of passing bats and also captured bat. We dismantled the mist net at 8:00 PM, night stayed at a house in the local community near the cave. We found the local community enthusiasts on bats. We shared and informed about ecosystem services provided by bats, direct and indirect benefits to human beings, emphasizing pollination, seed dispersal, and pest regulation.
Spectrogram of echolocation call of the captured Rhinolophus affinis developed from Kaleidoscope Viewer 4.1.3 version

Later during December, I continued the awareness activities to 200 schoolchildren from classes VI-IX in the same school.  The documentary show ‘Secret World of Bats’ was screened in a SMART HD Television Set available in the school and about 200 conservation awareness posters was disseminated to them.

About nine months I stayed in Gorkha and left the school and was involved in RSG Booster Grant Project during 2017-18 (read more about this project here) . In September 2018, I got enrolled for my PhD in Guangzhou University, Guangzhou, China. I have planned to undertake the PhD research entitled “Phylogeography of Nepal-China trans-boundary bats and impact of historical climate and tectonic effect on them”.

Team in Gorkha from Left to right Sanjan Thapa. Ganesh Shrestha and Ms. Ang Diku Sherpa
The main goal of this study is to understand the phylogeography (biogeography and evolutionary history) of bats dwelling in south and north faces of the Himalayas and the impact of topographic complexities (geographical barriers) and historical climate in the Himalayas on the bat species. Specific objectives of this project are to assess the species richness, current distribution and predict future distribution pattern, understand their biogeography and evolutionary history, supported by phylogenetic approach and infer the possible impact of geographical events (tectonics and topography) on the bat fauna and their response towards historical climate and climatic processes. Field work will be conducted at sites near the Nepal-Tibet border. Bats will be captured and tissue sample (3mm wing punch) will be taken. DNA extraction, PCR and sequencing will be conducted and phylogenetic and phylogeographic analyses will be executed. Although there are few limitations for this interesting research such as lack of funds to conduct field work in Nepal side and the terrain is too remote and adventurous.

A week ago, there was news of killing bats from caves in Putha Uttarganga Rural Municipality in East Rukum District. The local people as guided by local traditional healers (Jhankri) kill the bats and dip into mustard oil. This oil as they say may cure some unhealed wounds, rashes and skin diseases. The project “Living with villagers” will be continued after my PhD from Putha Uttarganga Rural Municipality in East Rukum District.

Views of Gorkha Bazar and surroundings


I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. Niraj Prasad Bhattarai, Principal and all the teachers of Shakti High School, Gorkha for their kind support to conduct the school awareness activities. I would like to acknowledge Er. Nabin Shrestha and local community of Deurali Bungkot for their support during the team’s visit. I am indebted to Caroline Ware, Dr. Debbie Bartlett, Angdiku Sherpa, Ganesh Shrestha, and Min Bahadur Gurung for their continuous support to continue this project. Thanks are owed to Idea Wild for the laptop, GPS and pocket projector; Emery Lucy from Jacobs and Richard Crompton, UK for the double unit Anabat II and Zcaim detector;  Bat Conservation Trust for the resource outreach materials; Bat Conservation International for the documentary; SMCRF for leaflets and posters; Greenwich University for a box of pencils.

I would like to express my esteem acknowledgements to Prof. Paul A. Racey, Ms. Sally R. Walker, Dr. Sanjay Molur, Dr. B.A. Daniel and R. Marimuthu from Zoo Outreach Organization, Dr. Maheshwar Dhakal, Dr. Shant Raj Jnawali, Ms. Sarita Jnawali, Dr. Hem Sagar Baral and DNPWC for their kind and continuous encouragements and support.

About the author
Sanjan Thapa is a researcher for Small Mammals Conservation and Research Foundation

Contat him: or

Thursday 31 October 2019

Nils Bouillard - BIG BAT YEAR

Nils Bouillard's passion for bats started in the summer of 2013, when he had his first close-up encounter with a bat, a Grey Long-eared Bat (Plecotus austriacus), near Chimay, in Belgium. That first sighting ended up the Big Bat year (365 days, 195 countries, 1400 species of bats). You can findout more here:  Nils did an interview with the Bat Conservastion Trust:

Image may contain: plant, flower and outdoor
(c) Nils Bouillard
No photo description available.
  • Can you remember the first time you spotted a bat? How did that moment make you feel?
I actually remember the time I first saw a bat up close quite vividly. I had seen them flying around the house before but seeing one up close was a completely different experience! It was a Grey Long-eared as well. I imagine that's not many people's first bat, especially not in the UK! It immediately made me want to learn more about those creatures I thought were cute and interesting. Reading about them added fascinating and captivating to the list of adjectives I use to describe them.
  • What inspired you to do the Big Bat Year?
As a birdwatcher, I knew of the concept. I followed closely the Big Year done by Arjan Dwarshuis (Dutch) and Noah Strycker (American) before him. One thing I love about the bat community is the absence of competitiveness, it's all about the bats, not lists. Naturally, the only legitimate thing to do was to pursue a list! More seriously, global big years are much more than ticking species of a list. They're popular, including in mainstream media. Everyone understands collecting, be it stamps or bird sightings, most people can relate. And that makes this a great way to raise awareness on conservation in a different way.

  • What advice would you offer to someone following in your footsteps?

Don't do it, it's crazy? No… That's not true. Well, it is crazy but more people should do it. Bat research is still an obscure field to many and often, it's the only way in to connect with bats and that's a shame. Bat tourism opportunities are many out there and it is a great way to protect bats by providing significant funding. The Painted Bat village in Thailand is a great example, the community earns money from showing those amazing bats to people.

My main advice to someone wanting to set on another Big Bat Year would be to focus on people. Finding bats on my own was extremely challenging and I was able to enjoy my time much more, and see many more bats when I had help.

Image may contain: plant and outdoor
(c) Nils Bouillard
  • What were the highs and the lows of the Big Bat Year?  Could you pick one moment that stood out above all the others?
The lows are definitely the times when I'm alone, struggling to find bats. Those times were definitely challenging. The highs would be the exact opposite of those actually, times when I was in great company. That happened very often actually, bat people are great and I've only met people really keen to help me in my quest.

It's very hard to pick one moment out of the hundreds I've had this year… If I had to pick one though it'd be when I realised I had discovered a new species. It was my dream as a child and despite the fact it took me three or four days to fully appreciate what was going on, it's definitely a highlight this year!
  • In your opinion , what are the main threats to bat conservation?
I think bat conservation would be a lot more effective if foreign researchers always worked hand in hand with the locals, training them. Often, that's not the case and the knowledge ends up disconnected geographically from the study species and that's a shame. We could also work on the image we give of bat research and conservation. It's not an obscure and inaccessible science. It's actually to involve people in bat-related citizen science projects and there should be more of those.

Image may contain: plant, tree, sky, outdoor and nature
(c) Nils Bouillard
  • How can we inspire more people to appreciate bats?
Citizen science. People often need to be involved to understand and that's especially true for science. Talking about bats and the threats they are facing is great but if people don't get to connect with the species, it's hard to get them to actually do something.

Another way to help people connect with fast-flying, cryptic-looking, night-living animals is photography. Showing the bats up close, in their environment, looking cute and everything is the best way to inspire people because we can't realistically show living bats to everyone…
  • We know it’s not a fair question but do you have a favourite bat species?
I have lots… I really can't pick one… Best I can do is pick one (or two) per family! It's a start..I guess…

My favourites would be the Yellow-winged bat (Lavia frons), the Long-eared bats (Plecotus spp.), the sucker-footed bats (Myzopoda spp.). I would have listed the species I discovered, had it been formally described already!

Take a look at the BigBatYear website and on Facebook/Instagram @nilsbouillard

Saturday 19 October 2019

Bat symbolism

Dr Joe Nunez-Mino (Director of Communications and Fundraising) ponders on the symbolism of bats. [This blog is based on an article originaly published in the June 2014 edition of Bat News - the Bat Conservation Trust membership magazine]

We get a few "odd" phone calls at BCT but in 2014 one particular call got my heart racing when the voice on the phone said “There are bats at Angel underground station”. My initial excitement was a little more subdued when told the bats were in fact part of an advertising campaign by Bacardi, one of the most famous companies using a bat as its logo. I rushed to see the spectacle that same evening and to be honest was very impressed. The bats were everywhere but the highlight was a tunnel where bats were flying above my head as I walked down.

Obviously, as members of BCT we all love bats but this experience got me thinking about what they symbolise for society at large. The most famous bat logo known across the world is that of Batman, an unusual superheroe since he has no super powers; yet in this, his 80th anniversary year, he is as popular as ever.

A quick look through the Bat News archives revealed an article from 2010 eloquently describing the celebration of bats in Chinese culture, in particular the five blessing motif Wu fu, of five bats surrounding the tree of life and representing long life, wealth, health, love of virtue and a peaceful death. In Europe, bats have more often been associated with witchcraft and magic sometimes with horrific consequences. In 1332 at Bayonne (France), Lady Jacaume was burned in public after a neighbour affirmed that “crowds of bats” harboured “around her house and walled-in garden”. Thankfully most people are more enlightened nowadays. This association of bats with the darker aspects of humanity is also seen in other cultures such as the Maya from South America where Camazotz (Bat God) represented night, death and sacrifice. By contrast, Native American cultures incorporate more positive bat traits such as communication and rebirth.

Japanese bat netsuke made of boxwood. Like in Chinese culture a symbol of luck.

The mystical powers often associated with bats are not always portrayed in a negative light.In fact the background to the bat becoming Bacardi’s logo may well be traced back to the use of the bat as a heraldic symbol by the former crown of Aragon which included the area in Spain where the Bacardi family originated. This, combined with the fact that bats roosted in the first commercial distillery building in the city of Santiago (Cuba), ensured the bat as part of the brand since 1862. Other drinks companies also use bats as part of their logo. Waxed Bat shiraz incorporates bats remembering bats in his grandfather’s wine cellars, while Bats blood wine from Transylvania makes the obvious connection with Dracula.

Bats are still used in the coat of arms of several Spanish cities once belonging to the crown of Aragon. All explanations for this date back to the reign of the King James I the Conqueror in the 13th century. The most popular story recounts how a bat woke the kingdom’s soldiers as they lay siege to Valencia (which still has a bat on its coat of arms) and saved them from a surprise attack.

In more modern times, military units across the globe have continued to use bats as their logos, mostly to reflect the fact that they operate under the cover of night. Examples include Australia, Canada, USA, Israel, Belgium, Czech Republic, South Korea, Germany, Poland, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam and South Africa. In Russia, the bat has been used as part of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU Spetsnaz) since the end of World War II. In the UK, the RAF 9th squadron have a bat in the centre of their badge along with their motto “Per noctum volamus” (Throughout the night we fly). It is claimed that the bat was chosen to make good humoured fun of Air Marshall Trenchard, often credited as the founder of the RAF, who stated "Only bats and bloody fools fly at night!” The squadron’s base at Honington (Suffolk) is nicknamed “Gotham city” because of its bat themed insignia.

I have not had the chance to mention all the sports teams, including many from Spain (again showing the crown of Aragon influence), which proudly display bats on their badges. It’s definitely worth encouraging more people to use the bat in their logos and we have recently been in touch with a school that may be incorporating bats into their emblem.

Have you got any bat logos or symbolism that you would like to share with us? – send details and photos to

Monday 14 October 2019

Enjoy Halloween on a budget and support the Bat Conservation Trust for free through Savoo

Celebrate Halloween for less this year while giving free donations to the Bat Conservation Trust throughout October. Isabelle Grimshaw, brand expert at online money-saving platform Savoo, tells us her top brand recommendations for celebrating Halloween on a budget, as well as more information on how you can start donating for free every time you shop online.

Thanks to the dark evenings and, of course, Halloween, October is often seen as a spooky month. What with their largely nocturnal lifestyle, bats often get associated with this creepy time of year as creatures of the night. It won’t be long before you start seeing bat-inspired decorations around shops and houses.

In reality, bats are far from scary. In fact, they’re fascinating creatures who help us in plenty of great ways, such as keeping bugs away from crops and aiding the natural biodiversity of an environment. Far from the blood-sucking vampire bats of Dracula, bats are largely peaceful creatures, and their UK population feeds exclusively on insects - no bloodsuckers here!

These days we mostly enjoy Halloween by getting cosy in the evenings, throwing parties and taking the kids trick or treating, so there’s less fear and more fun. 

How can I support the Bat Conservation Trust through Savoo?
Bats are misunderstood and undervalued but Bat Conservation Trust is working to change that. Halloween can often perpetuate some of the misconceptions about bats but it is also an opportunity to celebrate how wonderful bats are and make more people aware of this. Throughout October, you can help support bats by using the free online fundraising and money-saving platform Savoo. Find fantastic voucher codes and deals for all your favourite shops to save on your Halloween shopping. Every time you use one of Savoo’s voucher codes, they’ll donate on your behalf to your chosen charity.

Here’s how to set Bat Conservation Trust as your charity:
  1. Create an account on Savoo
  2. Go to the Bat Conservation Trust’s charity page
  3. Click the ‘support this charity’ button
  4. That’s it! You’re now supporting the Bat Conservation Trust
  5. Watch your donations stack up every time you use a deal or voucher code
  6. Plus, donate a penny for free every time you make a search with Savoo’s fundraising search engine, powered by Bing.
Usually, Savoo donates half of their affiliate commission, but throughout October they’ll be giving double donations to Bats Conservation Trust to help protect bats and their environment. So go big this Halloween and throughout the Black Friday and Christmas sales season knowing that you’re donating to a cause which matters to you.

Here are just a few Halloween deals you’re sure to go bats over:

Costumes from £5 at Asda

Whether you’re dressing up the kids or heading to a more grown up Halloween party, don’t break the bank with your costume - especially when it comes to the kids. There’s no point splashing out on a costume they’ll grow out of by next year. A few of our personal favourites include this classic skeleton outfit for just £5 and this adorable bat for £9 - both from Asda. For the adults, add a spooky touch to any outfit with these glittery £3.50 bat tights.

Plus, with plenty of cool party decorations starting at just £3, you can create a horrifying haunted house on any budget. Let’s not forget the wide range of Halloween treats you can grab for just £1, along with cheap pumpkins and carving kits from just £0.87. Check out more of Asda’s great deals on Savoo for more ways to save all year around.

Trick or treat essentials from just £0.40 at Sainsbury’s

From yummy treats to spooky trick or treat buckets to fill with goodies, Sainsbury’s has a fantastic range of budget-friendly trick or treating essentials. Pick up some fizzy fangs for £0.40, milk chocolate, Smarties filled Halloween monsters for £0.50, chocolate eyeballs for just £1 and a fun trick or treating bucket for £0.75.

Explore the £2 and under range to find everything from Fiendish French Fancies to decorations and masks. How about these glittery bat hair clips for a £2 accessory? For grown ups, this gorgeous lilac wig with bat embellishments is just £8 and gives a touch of ghoulish glamour, while this £4 bat headband is the perfect finishing touch to your costume. You’re sure to spot plenty more ways to bag a bargain over on Savoo’s page of Sainsbury’s discount codes

Halloween decorations from £3 at Argos

Throwing a party this year? Get the party startled with Argos’ fab, funky decorations for both indoors and outdoors. Starting at just £3, you can transform your home into a house of horrors without splashing out. Use the filters to find decorations in your price range, whether its under a tenner or £5. Simple decorations like £4.50 pumpkin string lights, an £8 floating ghost or a £5 tombstone will do wonders to set the scene. Plus, add some fun with an adorable bat pinata for just £12. Discover plenty more of Argos’ awesome deals on Savoo. 

Get Halloween-ready at Tesco

For Halloween essentials, you can always rely on Tesco. With popping candy and chocolate goodies starting at just £0.50, as well as loot pots, decorations, face paint and more, you can pick up all the little extras you need at bargain prices. How about a classic toffee apple to take you back to the good old days, or decorate a little differently this year with an adorable munchkin pumpkin. Grab two treats for just £1.50 to get more for your money and ensure your cauldron is overflowing with Savoo’s Tesco voucher codes

Find gorgeous Halloween make-up looks at Boots

Dressing up isn’t all about the costumes - you can create an amazing Halloween look with makeup alone. Boots has plenty of Halloween makeup inspiration from gothic vampires to sparkling mermaids. Add some sparkle with this £4.99 Barry M glitter for your face, body and hair, get creative with some face gems starting at just £6 or make a statement with Rimmel’s Trick or Treat makeup kit for £10.

Make sure your look lasts all night long with some makeup setting spray from just £4.99. Plus, Boots always has tons of special offers on such as free gifts, triple advantage card points and a 10% student discount which can all be found on Savoo, so you can save even more on your Halloween haul. 

Halloween accessories from £1.99 at New Look

If you want to celebrate Halloween all month long, stop by New Look for some cute accessories to get you in the spooky mood. How about a trick or treat tote bag for just £1.99, or some fangtastic socks for just £2.49? Grab three pairs of socks for just £6 to get more cosy pairs for your money.

Add those all-important finishing touches to your look with a £2.99 blood choker for some simple yet deadly style, or check out the great range of spooky t-shirts and dresses starting at just £9.99. So sit back, slip on your bat sunglasses and enjoy All Hallow’s Eve in style with Savoo’s New Look discount codes.

Find everything else at Wilko

If you’re looking for great value, you can’t go wrong at Wilko. A one-stop shop for everything Halloween, you’re sure to bag a bargain on decorations, partywear, face paint, costumes and much more. Start decorating with these £2 bat balloons, this £3 bat chandelier, some colourful tinsel and these spooky £1 bottle labels to really set the scene.

Find great quality face paint and makeup kits also starting at just £1, so whether you want to dress up as a bloody zombie or a beautiful mermaid, you can do it without splashing out. Plus you’ll find plenty of other essentials all starting from a quid, so tick off the last bits on your list with these great value goodies. See if you can shave even more on your order with Savoo’s Wilko special offers

Monday 19 August 2019

Interview with Gail Armstrong

Gail Armstrong is a volunteer bat worker, bat carer, bat trainer, part-time bat surveyor and as she puts it she ‘generally allowed bats to fill my life!’

Gail out in the field (c) Will Walton
What first got you interested in bats? OR what is your first memory of bats?
Ah, that’s always a popular question. Well although the original (and best) batman, Adam West, was a childhood hero of mine, I grew up in a town and as a child, I had little opportunity to see nice wildlife sites (no car, no money, no freedom). But I did always have a love of animals and birds and took more of an interest in wildlife conservation as I got older (and richer). One day, I saw a bat walk advertised in the Chorley Guardian and thought it sounded fun. I went along, stayed out late and signed up with the local bat group. I was in my mid-30s at the time, I started slowly and learnt as I went along.
What roles do you see bat care playing in bat conservation?
Well in a strict conservation sense, you could say that it doesn’t have a role at all! For example, the rescue of individual BIRDS plays no part at all in the work of the RSPB. But bats seem to be different because a bat on the ground is so conspicuous and vulnerable.
Can we try to equate bat care with bat conservation? Well, we get bats into care, we make them better, we let them go and thereby increase the number of wild bats so it sounds obvious. But bat conservation is not about individual bats, it’s about working to influence policy, safeguard habitats and maintain populations. And while we make a difference to the individual bats that get a second chance, it’s hard to make a case for this being a conservation effort. We are only dealing small numbers and they are the bats that already failed in some way.
However, don’t underestimate the impact that finding and helping a bat can have on a member of the public. They could be won over for life and go on to champion the cause of bat conservation themselves?
Bat carers often pick up pups that have been found indoors or on the ground and we find new roost sites as a result. Hopefully we help to secure these for the long-term and that’s a massive conservation win.
But at the end of the day, the biggest win for bat care as a conservation tool is in the better bat workers we become and that we help to turn out for the future. To know a bit about bats means knowing also that they are worth looking after.
Is there a particular aspect of the work that you do that you prefer or is there one you find more challenging than the others?
After 25 years, it’s all a bit second nature and a lot is done without thinking whether I enjoy it or not. I am the bats' champion, they need me to be there for them and members of the public need advice from someone who understands bats.
But challenging is dealing with bats that have been caught and badly injured by cats. Too often, a bat is mortally wounded but still alive and I end up in the role of bat killer. That feels pretty rubbish, to be honest.
Also challenging, but in a better way, is turning all Cagney and Lacey to work out how bats are entering living spaces in houses and other buildings. On my patch, these are usually large soprano pipistrelle nurseries located in roofs. Young bats can find the smallest gaps to squeeze through and so we visit time after time, blocking up gaps around internal roof beams, window lights, pipework, etc. We never give up until bats stop getting indoors because, if we can solve those problems and support the roost owners, they will be able to live happily with their bats in the roof, doing a great job for bat conservation while doing nothing at all!
Enjoyable is training other bat workers and seeing them get hooked like the rest of us. I also enjoy counting bats for the NBMP, there is nothing better than a large group of bat group members clicking away as bats flood from a roost on a summer’s evening.
And I do love it when I get a call that begins “Hello, Mrs Batty” from the man who is calling to let me know his bats have returned for another season. He also sends me pictures of the bat droppings on his front step, he pretends he’s not happy but I know different!
Q. And speaking of challenges, what do you think are the biggest challenges for bat conservation?
Stopping the loss of habitat must be the main one as humans want more and more space to live, build and grow food. How will we leave room for all the other species with which we share the planet? I don’t know the answer and it makes me very gloomy for future generations.
Q. What advice do you have for anyone wanting to get involved in bat conservation?
Join the Bat Conservation Trust and your local bat group straight away. In my experience, bat groups have always been a very easy, welcoming place for volunteers. With a bit of prior knowledge, bats are easy to see going about their normal business, you don’t have to be unduly still and quiet. Everyone loves being out in the countryside in the dark so just get out there, learn about bats and take it from there.
Q. And lastly a very difficult question – do you have a favourite bat species? And if so which one is it and why?
The favourite bat is always the one I am watching or caring for at the time.
Common pipistrelle, so placid, so adaptable and easy to help.
Soprano pipistrelle, feisty and spirited and they have that lovely smell.
Brandt’s bats, stealth bats, trying to be inconspicuous and usually succeeding. I rather like that they are pretty rare but we have loads of them in my part of the world.
I could go on (and I usually do).

This interview was part of our membership magazine Bat News Summer 2019 which contains more photos (and other interesting features). To join as a member and receive our magazine visit this page:

Friday 5 July 2019

Strength in Diversity – Dr Joe Nunez-Mino

I’m posting this blog today because in 2018 the 5 July was declared as International Day of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) also known as LGBTSTEM Day1. The day was created in order to help raise awareness and increase support of diversity and inclusion in STEM. It comes just a few days after Pride Month (June) during which many organisations and learned societies, such as the Royal Society and the British Library, have acknowledged and marked LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations by displaying rainbow colours – this year more institutions have joined in because it is 50 years since the Stonewall riots in New York. While most people have reacted positively, a small minority are vociferous in their rejection of equality which demonstrates that there is still a need to educate more individuals. Bat conservationists everywhere will know all about the need to educate.  

The critical question that actually matters is what does respect of human diversity and equality have to do with conservation and bat conservation in particular? The truth is that it should have absolutely nothing to do with it but as Rocha & Hua (2018) have stated in a letter in Nature “Overcoming the planet’s unprecedented challenges will demand all of our combined intellectual power — regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, disability or any other diversity dimension that is currently under-represented in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM)2 

Two things that have played a central part in my life are wildlife conservation and the need for greater equality. I have fought to further both at every opportunity because I care about the world we live in and the inheritance we leave for the next generation. As an openly gay man my sexuality has sometimes conflicted with my work as a conservation biologist particularly when I worked in countries where intolerance and prejudice were enshrined in law and/or considered to be acceptable behaviour. I know how damaging and isolating hiding a part of who you are can be. Having said that, I have also experienced prejudice in the UK both because of my sexuality and because of my Spanish background even though I was born and raised in the UK. Those experiences have spurred me on to do something about it by trying to fight all forms of discrimination including racism, misogyny, religious intolerance as well as transphobia and homophobia. Lack of inclusivity is damaging at the personal level as well as to society at large. This is one reason why I am a member of the British Ecological Society Equality and Diversity Workgroup3. We need to make sure that all science and conservation is welcoming and inclusive. Without being truly representative, we are likely to struggle to be relevant to a significant part of the population.

I’m confident that anyone considering getting involved in the conservation sector will find the bat conservation community welcoming; this is something that we should be celebrating. By being visible, those of us that are part of that community let others know just how inclusive we are. We already have similar examples of successful inclusivity. We should be rightly proud of the fact that so many women are involved in bat conservation, visibility has empowered other women to get involved. Those of us who are from groups who are not immediately visible need to be more explicit and vocal about who we are so that we can also be positive role models for our peers.

This weekend I will be marching with the Royal Society of Biology at London Pride which is a yearly event celebrating and promoting LGBT+ equality. The theme for this year’s march is the celebration of 50 years since the birth of the modern LGBT+ rights movement. We have made tremendous progress in bat conservation in that time too but as we all know there is more work to be done. It won’t be easy but there is strength in our diversity and inclusivity, and I am hopeful that this can help us continue to make progress on both fronts.

2.  2. Rocha, R & Hua, F. (2018) Tackle all forms of under-representation in science Nature 557, 637 doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-05289-5

Friday 5 April 2019

Why you should join the fight for Scotland’s nature

This blog is by Liz Ferrell, Scottish Officer for the Bat Conservation Trust.

Scotland’s wildlife is in danger 
The State of Nature report recognised Scotland as one of the most heavily deforested countries in Europe. With 1 in 10 species in Scotland at risk of extinction we need a Scottish Environment Act.

We all need to keep up the pressure
There are many people in the UK that care for the health of our environment. During 2018, 10,000 people marched to Downing Street as part of the People’s Walk for Wildlife. Year on year, over 750,000 volunteer hours go into monitoring 9,670 species in the UK and much of this data is used in the State of Nature reports. It is clear that this is an important issue for people up and down the UK but we need to all come together as one clear voice to push for change.

Sign the petition today!
You can be the difference, sign the Fight for Scotland’s Nature petition today. Tell the Scottish Government that we need our own Scottish Environment Act so that nature in Scotland is protected, and importantly enhanced, now and into the future. 

Bats are important
Bats are a vital part of our native wildlife. There are 10 species in Scotland and they occupy a wide range of habitats, such as wetlands, woodlands, farmland, as well as urban areas. 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. The pressures they face - such as landscape change, agricultural intensification, 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. 

Embed much needed EU environmental law principles into Scots law
Whilst the EU legislation will be adopted into domestic law as it stands at the time of Exit, we will be leaving behind those strong overarching environmental Principles and Governance arrangements which ensured that EU laws were properly implemented. This leaves a back door open for future weakening of environmental protection.

In the UK, bat populations have declined considerably over the last century. There has been some better news recently, with the latest trends indicating that for a small number of bat species we are seeing the first signs of a slow recovery from this lowest point. Some other species are at least now remaining stable. This does suggest that current legislation and conservation action to protect bats are having a positive impact making it imperative that this vital protection continues. The threats to bats such as building and development work that affects roosts, loss of habitat, the severing of commuting routes by roads and artificial lighting remain significant. 

In Scotland, all bat species and their roosts are legally protected by both domestic and EU legislation and they are therefore classed as European Protected Species. The legislation set the standard for nature conservation across the EU and enables all Member States to work together within the same strong legislative framework in order to protect the most vulnerable species and habitat types across their entire natural range within the EU. BCT and partners have been working to defend the level of protection bats and their habitats are afforded to make sure the legislation is not weakened as the UK negotiates its exit from the EU.

Benefits for us not just bats!
As well as natural wealth, there are cultural and economic benefits to protecting bats and the habitats on which they rely. In fact 14% of jobs are supported by the natural environment and this could be more! We all should have a right to a healthy environment and we need to ensure the Scottish Government recognise their responsibilities that will make this happen. Therefore please do remember to complete the Fight for Scotland’s Nature petition to ensure there is no regression on environmental standards. 

Friday 8 March 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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