Yesterday morning, I joined Rob, Rose Godwin and Peter Burke (who is doing a Midlands Bat Box Survey) at Silver Trees as they were due to carry out their Spring survey of the bat boxes on site. Rob has built and put up an amazing 30 boxes, all over the site, in varying locations, heights etc to try to offer a range of species a suitable roosting space. These boxes are all monitored and detailed records are kept of the species visiting and using them.
I have never been part of something like this, so leapt at the chance, as I knew I might be able to get some close-up views of some of the bat species we picked up on my bat detector there a few weeks ago. Then, I had registered a Leiser’s bat for the first time!
Rose is a registered monitor, so has a license to check and handle the bats. Rob climbed up to each box and placed a duster in the entrance to prevent them from flying out when disturbed. We started quite early, when it was cooler, and the bats were less likely to be too active. If there were any bats in the box, Rose would then climb up and very carefully extract them and place them in a small bag. The bats have a locking mechanism on their hind legs that allows them to hang upside down without falling. Rose explained that you have to very carefully ‘dis-engage’ this to get the bat out. Great care has to be taken not to damage their tiny claws and toes.
Once in the bag, Rose bought it down for ID. Each bat was weighed, sexed and the length of its forearm, measured. This first one was a Common Pipistrelle…
It was a real treat to see these bats up close and even hear them chattering with annoyance at being woken from their daytime slumber! They really are the most beautiful creatures and the way their wings fold into their body is stunning. I could have looked at them for hours, but speed was the essence; we had to get these guys back into the box with as little disturbance as possible.
Some boxes had nothing inside, some had the beginnings of blue tit nests or evidence of birds roosting. All were checked and then droppings etc cleaned out.
We were delighted in one box to have a Noctule! Much bigger than the Pipistrelle, these guys have an amazing face and ears.
The Noctules have a distinct dropping as well… it has three ‘lobes’ rather than just a single pellet shape and, if there were no bats in there, the team had a look at any droppings as well…
I was only able to stay for about an hour and a half and left the team working their way around the other boxes. At the end of the survey, they had logged 10 Pipistrelles, 5 Noctules and 2 Leislers. Fantastic work from Rob and it must make all that work worthwhile when you see the bats using the boxes.
Thank you for asking me a long… I will be returning for the Autumn survey, where apparently, they often log even more individuals!