Our citizen science contributions have gone batty!
Bats, our only true flying mammals are extremely sensitive to environmental change. They are incredible biological indicator species and have sadly been in decline since the 1970s. As with many species, the declines are significantly linked to human disturbance, habitat removal (specifically woodlands and hedgerows), agricultural practices (effecting food / insect richness), climate change, urbanisation and pollution. With this in mind, it is so important for us to continually monitor local bat population trends and distributions. There are at least three viewing points in our locality where we can clearly see bat movements. The best time to observe bats is during at dusk (an hour after sunset) and dawn (an hour before sunrise) between April and September, peak months being June, July and August.
The Bat Conservation Trust was founded in 1990 and supports local bat groups hosting over 6000 members, which includes volunteers and scientists working on a range of projects across the UK. So here, at Stanfree Valley, as members of BCT we wanted to contribute our findings to their citizen science monitoring project.
An annual celebration of bats sees events taking place across the country, so look out for these. This year (2019) International Bat Night is 24-25th August! Besides this, in 2002, BCT started the Sunrise/Sunset survey, which is a national engagement opportunity to record bats’ commuting routes, foraging areas, territories and roosts (dawn swarming). Up to 300 volunteers took part last year; let us play our part this year.
The Sunset/Sunrise Survey Big Weekend will take place on the 13th
July 2019. All bat sightings can be recorded online by entering data via: BCT Sunset Sunrise Survey.
For more information about the survey, visit www.bats.org.uk
What to look for: The most common bat you will be likely to see is the Pipistrelle species (twists and turns, downward swoops in flight), other bats include larger species such as the Noctule (flies in straight lines high in tree tops), Long-eared (slow, hovering flight close to trees) or Daubenton’s bat (flies low over water).
If you are unsure of identifying our UK bats through sight, then bat detectors are really fun to use in being able to detect different species of bats (bats use echolocation to navigate and hunt for insects in the dark). Detectors work by converting ultrasonic bat calls into sounds that are audible to human ears (producing a range of ticks, clicks and trills) and so are great for identification of species in the field. These gadgets can be purchased from around £60. (https://gardenature.co.uk/shop/watching-wildlife/bat-detectors/bat-detectors
Echolocation is the orientation, navigation and detection of prey by interpretation of echoes of previously emitted sounds. It provides us with copious insights into the lives of bats, their communication and interactions, even on an individual level. Although a great deal of work has been carried out using high tech ultrasonic detectors, there remains a lot to be discovered.
Either by observing bats by sight or using a device to help, your input (and ours) is highly valued. So please, take a look at the BCT website and find out how you can make a difference to our little flying mammals.
Thank you from all of us at Stanfree Valley Preservation Group.
Before you go, here’s some Batty facts:
· A tiny Pipistrelle can eat up to 3,000 insects in a night.
· Number of heartbeats in hibernation; 12 beats/ minute
· Number of heartbeats in flight; >1,000 beats/ minute
· Bats usually only have one baby a year and can live for up to 30 years
· The oldest age in a bat; 41 years old (Brandts bat)
· The oldest bat fossil found; 52.5 million years old (Wyoming, USA)