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:

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(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.

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(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.

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(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