Bat Group Bulletin

 

  1. EBLV Positive Bat from Northumberland
  2. Investigations and Mitigation Project Funding Award
  3. Mitigation Case Studies Forum – A Call for Case Studies
  4. Would a 2nd edition of BCT’s Professional Training Standards be useful?
  5. Scottish Bat Workers Conference 2016
  6. Channel Islands Bat Conference 2016
  7. A Request for Examples of Noisy Bat Roosts
  8. Perception of Downgrading of Bat Protection Legislation
  9. Winner of Pete Guest Award 2016
  10. Help BCT Win a Share of £20,000
  11. Bat Research Papers, Reports and Other Publications
  12. Key Dates for Your Diary

 

  1. EBLV2 Positive Bat from Northumberland

Another Daubenton’s bat has tested positive for European Bat Lyssavirus strain 2 (EBLV2) (a rabies virus), this time from Northumberland. As with the case last month, the bat was submitted to the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) as part of the on-going passive surveillance scheme.

Despite being the second case this year, it is not a cause for concern as we have known of the presence of EBLV2 at a very low level in our Daubenton’s bat population for a number of years. The presence of the virus in a small number of bats (a total of 14 positive bats, including this most recent case) does not affect the UK’s rabies-free health status. There was no bite incident (neither person nor animal) associated with this case and therefore Public Health England have confirmed that there is no public health risk linked with this incident.

A letter from the APHA is being published in the Veterinary Record about the latest EBLV2 cases and the overall situation in the UK. Unfortunately this is not an open access journal but you can read the abstract online at: http://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/179/12/311.4.extract. If you would like the full letter please email Lisa Worledge (lworledge@bats.org.uk).

If you have any questions about this case or the general situation relating to rabies in the UK there is information on the BCT website at http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/-bats_and_rabies-1099.html  or you are welcome to get in touch with the National Bat Helpline (enquiries@bats.org.uk or 0345 1300 228).

The Good Practice Guidelines on Bats & Rabies are available from the BCT website at: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/resources_for_bat_groups.html  and it is important this information is shared with bat group members.

In the August Bat Group Bulletin we included details about the APHA passive surveillance programme and a reminder about rabies vaccinations and the wearing of gloves. You can read that edition of the Bulletin on the BCT website at: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/bat_group_bulletin_no._136.html

 

  1. Investigations and Mitigation Project

We are delighted to announce that, following our application to the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (EFF) in January this year, we have received confirmation of funding for our Investigations and Mitigation Project.

The EFF funding secures and increases the capacity of our Investigations Officer, Pete Charleston, for the next three years so that we can continue to raise awareness and lobby for more appropriate sentencing for bat and other wildlife crime. Thank-you to all those Bat Groups who have supported this work over the years – you have been instrumental in our progress to date!

Working towards improving the approach to bat roost mitigation is part of the package because this will make developers more likely to follow the best practice route than opt to commit a crime. The EFF funding secures new, fixed term posts for a Field Researcher and a Field Assistant, who will investigate both the implementation and effectiveness of bat roost mitigation by visiting sites for a cross section of licensing and planning cases. The results of a desk study and two seasons of fieldwork will be used to assess what further action is required to improve implementation and provide guidance on effectiveness. In addition, we will build a new and improved Roost website, create a new bat mitigation award and we will be holding a Mitigation Case Studies symposium in January 2017 (see below).

 

  1. Mitigation Case Studies Forum – Call for Case Studies

As mentioned above, BCT’s Bats and the Built Environment Project will be running a Mitigation Case Studies Forum on 24th January 2017 at the Arup Headquarters, London. The key aim is to promote the importance of monitoring in ensuring success in mitigation schemes by sharing best practice and lessons learnt. This event concerns biodiversity in general, not just bats!

We are currently seeking case studies for the event. To submit a case study, we will require a title and 250 word abstract. Details about what the abstracts should contain and the types of case studies we are looking for can be found at: http://www.bats.org.uk/news.php/341/mitigation_case_studies_forum_call_for_case_studies. The  deadline for abstracts is 5pm on Friday 21st October.

 

  1. Would a 2nd edition of BCT’s Professional Training Standards be useful?

In 2012 BCT produced the Professional Training Standards which aim to provide a set of standards for professional bat surveyors (consultants, ecologists, etc) relating to bat work in the UK. This document was in line with BCT training courses and the 2nd edition of the Bat Surveys: Good Practice Guidelines. We are currently considering the possibility of producing a second edition of the standards. Prior to this we have put together a short survey to understand if and how the first edition is currently used and whether a second edition would be of value. We would be very grateful if you could spare 5 minutes to complete our survey: http://www.eSurveysPro.com/Survey.aspx?id=d189dd39-51f9-4e06-a648-39abe8bd6a12. The survey will close on 30th September.

Any questions please contact Helen Miller (hmiller@bats.org.uk).

 

  1. Scottish Bat Workers Conference 2016

The Scottish Bat Workers Conference will be taking place on Saturday 19th November at Battleby. Booking is due to open in early October. Talks to include: The Southern Scotland Bat Survey (BTO), Bat Social calls, (Neil Middleton), The Work of Noctalis, a German education centre with a focus on bats (Dr Anne Ipsen), plus updates on the work of Scottish bat groups, BCT and research projects.

 

  1. Channel Islands Bat Conference 2016

The second Channel Islands Bat Conference is taking place on Jersey on the weekend of 29th and 30th October. This event is being organised by the Jersey Bat Group and has a great range of speakers from around the UK as well as interesting workshops. There will also be a Halloween themed party on the Saturday evening. There are still a few places available, so for more information and to book a place see: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/channel-islands-bat-conference-2016-tickets-26376492800

 

  1. A Request for Examples of Noisy Bat Roosts

Arcadis are looking for examples of roosts in close proximity (within 0-50 metres) of a significant noise source. Ideally this would be a maternity roost, but if not, then a roost with a reasonable number of individuals in it (not a transient roost). There needs to be a clear ‘line-of-sight’ from noise source to roost, and we need to be able to gain land access reasonably close to (but not necessarily within) the roost. It would be helpful if the noise source was not integral to the roost, so: bats in a church within earshot of bells, bats close to a road, bats close to light industry or a non-nuclear power station, or even a hydroscheme, would be of interest. Bats roosting within a structure that is an integral part of the noise generation (i.e. within a road/rail bridge or tunnel) are also of interest, but may prove to be less useful for the purposes of this study. If you know of any roosts fitting this description, please contact paola.reason@arcadis.com.

 

  1. Perception of Downgrading of Bat Protection Legislation

Back in July we asked if people could report any incidents where individuals or organisations have expressed views showing that they believe European Protected Species have less protection now than before the EU referendum, or that people don’t need to take account of them in the same way. We have had a number of examples mentioned to us by other conservation organisations and feel it is important to capture evidence of cases relating to bats. However, we only received one response in relation to bats and are, therefore, asking again just to make sure we aren’t missing any cases.

 

So, for example, if someone gets in touch with your bat group and suggests that ‘bats are no longer protected now we’re coming out of Europe’ or you have dealings with a local planning authority that thinks they may no longer need to take account of protected species in their decision making, please can you email Lisa Worledge at lworledge@bats.org.uk

 

  1. Winner of Pete Guest Award 2016

Thank you to everyone who nominated people for the 2016 Pete Guest Award and/or voted. A total of 13 bat workers were nominated by BCT members, bat groups, NBMP volunteers and bat carers, this year. This was the most nominees we have ever received, and we also received the most votes ever.

Congratulations to everyone who was nominated. This year’s winner was James Shipman from Berkshire. James was nominated for his commitment and his contagious enthusiasm for bat conservation in the UK and Gibraltar, along with his encouragement of new volunteers from all walks of life. He is the Chairman of Berks & South Bucks Bat Group and one of the founders of the GibBats project. The full details of James’ nomination, along with that of the other nominees and more information about the award is available on the BCT website at: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/nationalconferenceawards.html

 

  1. Help BCT Win a Share of £20,000

BCT has been nominated for a chance to receive a share of £20,000 from Animal Friends Pet Insurance. In order to win a percentage of the £20,000 we need votes from our supporters. The greater share of the total votes we receive, the bigger the share of the donation. Votes can only be made via Facebook or Twitter and are based on shares and re-tweets of the official ‘charity link’ which is:

https://www.facebook.com/FeelGoodPark/photos/a.186205168068315.39359.147924838563015/1215568581798630/?type=3&theater

We are ‘competing’ with 2 other charities (Folly Wildlife Rescue and Wildlife Aid Foundation). Voting ends on the 27th of October so please share widely!

 

  1. Bat Research Papers, Reports and Other Publications

Please note we normally only include bat related articles, reports and blogs in this section where they are available to read online or to download without charge. Exceptionally we do include details of papers or other items where we think they will be of particular interest but where only abstracts or summary information is available, but we will include a note of that in the text about the article.  For more information about how to access journal papers see the BCT website at: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/accessing_journal_papers.html

 

  • Bats and Wind Turbines Research – The much anticipated report based on the University of Exeter research on bats and wind-turbines was released earlier this month. More information and the full publication can be found at: http://www.bats.org.uk/news.php/342/bats_and_wind_turbines_research_project. Guidance, based on this research, is due out in due course. The on-going work by the University of Exeter, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, has also developed an online tool, www.ecobat.org.uk to help stakeholders to interpret acoustic survey work conducted at wind farm sites. Detailed assessments of potential risk factors that can be used to predict collision rates at wind farms are also ongoing.

 

 

 

 

  • Finding flowers in the dark: nectar-feeding bats integrate olfaction and echolocation while foraging for nectar – This paper by Gonzalez-Terrazas, et al and published in Royal Society Open Science, looks at how nectar feeding species combine smell and sound for effective foraging. The full paper can be read online at: http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/3/8/160199

 

  • Predicting bat distributions and diversity hotspots in southern Africa – This paper by Rachael Cooper-Bohannon (the 2016 Vincent Weir Award winner) et al, looks at the use of species distribution models to predict bat species richness across southern Africa and the drivers of these spatial patterns. The full paper, published in Hystrix, can be downloaded from: http://www.italian-journal-of-mammalogy.it/article/view/11722

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Key Dates for Your Diary

Watch this space for dates and reminders of conferences and other events you may be interested in. Please don’t forget you can get some extra publicity for your events by adding the details to the BCT website at:  www.bats.org.uk/events.php

 

BCT Events

  • 24–30 October – Wild About Gardens Week 2016 is a joint initiative by the RHS, The Wildlife Trusts and Bat Conservation Trust to encourage people to support bats and other wildlife in their gardens. Keep an eye on the website http://www.wildaboutgardensweek.org.uk/
  • 19 November – Scottish Bat Workers Conference, Battleby near Perth. ** Save the date** Bookings to open in early October.
  • 26 November – South East England Bat Conference, The Living Planet Centre, WWF, Woking, Surrey. Bookings will open in the new few weeks and more details will be added to the BCT website shortly. Details of the last event can be found online at: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/seconference.html
  • 24 January 2017 – Mitigation Case Studies Forum, Arup Headquarters, London. More details about this event are to follow but there is a call for case studies, please see: http://www.bats.org.uk/news.php/341/mitigation_case_studies_forum_call_for_case_studies_

 

Other Events

 

Back issues of the Bulletin (a rolling 12-months) are available on the BCT website at: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/back_issues_of_the_bat_group_bulletin.html (bulletins are typically added a few weeks after being circulated to bat groups).

 

Get online with the NBMP

The Bat Conservation Trust and JNCC are pleased to announce the launch of our Field Survey and Waterway Survey online recording pages!

These will enable volunteers taking part in these surveys to:
• View your allocated sites (Waterway Surveys have yet to be allocated, we will inform volunteers when we have done this)
• Download and print off your survey forms (we will be sending everyone, signed up to these surveys, a printed survey pack this year)
• Draw your transects online
• Enter your data online

We hope you find these online pages useful and we would welcome any questions or feedback. Don’t forget we also have online recording for the Roost Count and Hibernation Survey.
To access the online recording pages or sign up to surveys please click here (http://nbmp.bats.org.uk/Surveys.aspx). If you have not yet activated your online account, follow the instructions for existing volunteer the first time you log on.
Best wishes,

The NBMP Team

NBMP Training

Great session last night at Merseyside BioBank with members thinking about signing up for the National Bat Monitoring Programme!

Charlie kicked off with some bat calls and a chat about identifying species from their sonograms and how they differ depending on what the bat is doing and where they are. Ben followed this up with a brief presentation on the NBMP itself and the different types of surveys you can be involved in.

We closed with some great discussions about the surveys and what people could do next!

Ami Weir from the Biodiverse Society project was also present and outlined the work they are undertaking and how people can get involved through surveying bats and the NBMP.

See the link below for the excellent video on how to carry out the roost survey!

Remember you can sign up today!

BCT Bulletin

1. REFIT – EU Habitats Directive Review
REFIT is the European Commission’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance programme. As part of this, consultants have been selected to carry out a review of whether the Birds and Habitats Directives are ‘fit for purpose’. All EU member states will be sent a questionnaire as part of the consultation, but 10 member states will be selected for a more in-depth stakeholder consultation. The UK is one of these 10 member states. It is expected that in addition to consulting Defra, the consultants will also speaking with another government department, a representative for environmental NGOs and a representative of business.

There will be a public consultation in April and we understand that will run for 12 weeks. BCT will be working with joint Wildlife & Countryside LINKS and our European partners (via Batlife Europe and European Habitats Forum) to make sure we get a strong response to this consultation. We will be encouraging bat groups and all our members, supporters and volunteers to respond to the consultation once it is live. We will send further details as soon as they are available – likely to be in late March.

2. Bat Crime Report
The latest Bat Crime Report, compiled by BCT’s Investigations Officer Pete Charleston, is now available on the BCT website at:
http://www.bats.org.uk/news.php/264/release_of_the_latest_bat_crime_report_2013_

3. Vacancies at BCT
BCT currently has vacancies for Seasonal Helpline Officers and two internships (one with the Helpline and one with the National Bat Monitoring Programme team). Details of these are on our website at: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/vacancies.html (the deadline for applications for all of these posts are 9th March 2015).

4. Bat Officer Post with Tees Valley Wildlife Trust
The Tees Valley Wildlife Trust is recruiting for a Bat Officer to run a project in East Cleveland. Amongst the range of responsibilities will be establishing a new bat group for the local area. For more details see: http://www.teeswildlife.org/who-we-are/jobs/ (the closing date for applications is Friday 18th February).

5. Bat Species Champions (Scotland)
Our hearts were well and truly warmed by four out of six MSP (Members of the Scottish Parliament) bat species champions who helped create a short film voicing concerns over bats and climate change. The film clips will be released on 12th and 13th of February with links from the BCT Facebook page and our website http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/species_champions_.html

6. Help the Helpline this Summer
During the busy summer months (May to September) BCT runs an Out Of Hours (OOH) helpline, where volunteers answer emergency calls from the public in the evenings and over the weekends. Volunteers receive training in answering calls before the season begins, as well as full support from BCT staff throughout the season.

Common calls involve grounded or injured bats found by the public, bats trapped in people’s houses, newly-discovered roosts and planning and development queries. The OOH helpline can sometimes be challenging but also very rewarding. It would not be possible to run such a service without the volunteers and their help is hugely appreciated.

2014 was our busiest OOH season ever! Our volunteers took 2163 calls throughout the season! Further information about the project and the 2014 season can be found in the OOH Report 2014 on our website: www.bats.org.uk/pages/bat_helpline.html

How to Volunteer
We are now recruiting for the 2015 season. Please note that all participants will need to attend one of the two Out of Hours training days: 11th April 2015 (London) or 18th April 2015 (Manchester).

Please register your interest by getting in touch with Keiron Brown on 0845 1300 228 or by emailing kbrown@bats.org.uk

7. BCT Response to Matt Ridley Article in Times
Judging by the emails we have received and comments on social media, many of you will have seen the opinion piece in the Times at the end of January, written by Matt Ridley. Entitled “Its common sense: kill the rats, move the bats” it presented an ill-informed picture of the serious topic of bats in churches. We have posted a response to the article on our website at: http://www.bats.org.uk/news.php/263/bats_and_churches_a_response_to_the_times_opinion_piece_ (we also wrote to the Times. Our letter was not published but one from Prof. Paul Racey was).

Miles King, conservation expert and blogger, has also posted a more humorous response at:
https://anewnatureblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/super-ridley-blats-the-bat-people-but-will-the-evil-raccoon-win-out/

8. Staff Profile: Philip Briggs
This is the third in an occasional series of BCT Staff Profiles for the bulletin (included at the request of a number of our readers). We hope you’ll enjoy getting to know the BCT staff a bit more and there are further staff profiles on the BCT website at: www.bats.org.uk/pages/whos_who.html

I’ve worked at BCT as part of the National Bat Monitoring Programme team since 2003 after I first got interested in bats in 2001 when I attended a bat walk at the WWT London Wetland Centre where I’m a volunteer tour guide. I was immediately hooked and the very next day I went online and ordered a bat detector. As I was keen and suitably equipped the site ecologist invited me to get involved in bat monitoring and public bat walks at the site. Before long I joined London Bat Group and also signed up to take part in NBMP surveys which helped me get the job of NBMP Survey Coordinator at the end of summer 2003. I remained in that role for a few years before stepping up to the role of NBMP Projects Manager.

I enjoy working in the NBMP team as it’s rewarding to be involved in the important work of monitoring how our bat species are faring across the UK. We are so lucky to have had thousands of dedicated volunteers over the years, without whom we wouldn’t be able to collect the data we rely on for producing annual species population trends.

One of the great things about working at BCT is that varied and sometimes challenging requests come my way, some of which I would never have imagined doing, such as bat detecting with Alan Titchmarsh in the garden at Buckingham Palace for a TV programme that went out on Christmas day after the Queen’s speech! My biggest area of interest is identification of bats from their calls and I enjoy delivering bat detector workshops in different parts of the UK and was pleased to be asked to contribute to a key reference book, Jon Russ’ “British Bat Calls”.

I’ve been a wildlife enthusiast from an early age and I recall one time in my teens standing by my local pond enjoying watching bats and wondering how you tell one species from another. If someone had told me that would be my job one day I wouldn’t have believed them! Despite my enthusiasm I didn’t initially consider the possibility of a career in wildlife conservation. I did an English degree and ended up working in publishing for about five years but the voluntary experience I was gaining with WWT during this period eventually enabled a career change when the vacancy at BCT came up. I find bats endlessly fascinating and even after 14 years I feel there is still so much to learn and discover. At the most basic level the appeal of bats for me is that they are among our most charismatic animals and the excitement I felt when I went on my first bat walk has yet to show any signs of wearing off!

9. Natural England Useful Links
We have updated the page on our website at: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/usefulnelinks.html with links to various teams in Natural England for volunteer support and licensing as well as relevant bat related web pages. This follows the move to the GOV.UK website of many of the Natural England web pages.

10. Trekking for Bats!
Do you like hiking and want to help raise funds for BCT? Organised by Global Adventure Challenges, Trekfest will allow you to take on the ultimate UK charity challenge in one of the UK’s most stunning National Parks. The aim is to complete your chosen distance within the allotted time frame. The challenges include treks of either 54 miles in 24 hours, 27/29 miles in 12 hours, or 13 miles in 6 hours, at either Brecon Beacons (6 & 7 June 2015) or the Peak District National Park (5 & 6 September 2015).

More details are on the BCT website at: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/trekfest-_hike_for_bct.html (BCT staff will also be putting together a team to take on one of the challenges!)

11. Key Dates for Your Diary
Watch this space for dates and reminders of conferences and other events you may be interested in. Please don’t forget you can get some extra publicity for your events by adding the details to the BCT website at: www.bats.org.uk/events.php

BCT Events
· 21 March 2015 – South West England Bat Conference. Bookings are now open, for more details see: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/swconference.html
· 24 March 2015 **CHANGE IN DATE** – Wildlife and Transport Infrastructure Symposium, The Light, Friends House, Euston, London. Bookings for this event are now open. Follow the links from: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/wildlife_and_transport_infrastructure_symposium_2015.html
· 18 April 2015 – North of England Bat Conference. Hold the date – more details to follow! For information about the last event see: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/northenglandconference.html
· 6 to 7 June – Wales Bat Conference, Stackpole Centre, Pembrokeshire. For more information see: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/wales_bat_conference.html
· 11 to 13 September 2015 – National Bat Conference, University of Warwick. For more information see: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/national_bat_conference.html
· 7 November – Scottish Bat Workers Conference, Battleby, near Perth. Hold the date – more details to follow! For more information about the last event see: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/sbc.html

Other Events
· 13 to 15 March 2015 – 4th International Berlin Bat Meeting: Movement ecology of bats. The aim of the event is to foster an exchange of ideas among international specialists working on bats in the context of movement ecology. If you would like more information please see the web pages at: http://www.izw-berlin.de/willkommen-330.html
· 21 March 2015 – ‘Eyes in the Field’ Wildlife Crime Conference, Buxton, Derbyshire. For more details see: http://birdersagainst.org/eyes-in-the-field-conference/
· 28 to 29 March 2015 – 61st Mammal Society Spring Conference, Lancaster University. More details are available at: http://www.mammal.org.uk/conference (note the event is proceeded by a one day student’s conference on 27 March)
· 23 to 25 April 2015 – A Question of Ecology – answers from biological recording, University of Sheffield. A conference organised by the National Forum for Biological Recording and the British Ecological Society. More information is available at: http://www.nfbr.org.uk
· 19 & 20 June 2015 – Refloating the Ark: Connecting the public and scientists with natural history museums, Manchester Museum. A two‐day meeting exploring how natural history museums can contribute towards environmental sustainability, by engaging effectively with the public and the scientific research community. For more information please email henry.mcghie@manchester.ac.uk
· 13 to 15 July – The 3rd international conference on Spatial Ecology & Conservation, University of Bristol. There is currently a call for abstracts and more information about the conference is available on the conference website at: http://www.ert-conservation.co.uk/sec3_introduction.php

A rolling 12-months of the bulletin are available on the BCT website at: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/back_issues_of_the_bat_group_bulletin.html (bulletins are added a week or two after being circulated to bat groups).

Kind regards,
Lisa.

Lisa Worledge
Partnerships Officer
Bat Conservation Trust, Quadrant House, 250 Kennington Lane, London SE11 5RD

National Bat Monitoring and Citizen Science

More and more volunteers are being relied upon to keep a check on and monitor the state of our countries natural environment.

A great example of this type of work can be seen in the National Bat Monitoring Programme run by the Bat Conservation Trust. The volunteers undertaking this programme are collecting masses of vital scientific information on the Bat species of the UK every year. Information that is of critical importance to Bat conservation.

The Bat Conservation Trust is able to produce trends on this data, helping us to learn more about our bats and how they are doing. The full story from the Bat Conservation Trust and more information on the Programme can be found here: http://www.bats.org.uk/news.php/252/the_national_bat_monitoring_programme_citizen_science_reveals_trends_in_bat_populations

Bat Handling and Identification

Bat Handling and Identification with Gail Armstrong.

Dear All,
The popular one-day Bat Handling and Identification course will run on 20th February 2015 at Forrest Hills in Lancaster. We have kept the price at £125 which includes lunch and other refreshments. Please get in touch for booking information, if you are interested in a place.
Best Wishes,
Gail Armstrong.
http://www.batlady.co.uk/

Bats ‘fly by polarised light’ By Jonathan Webb Science reporter, BBC News

Original BBC post, which includes some superb photography, can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-28402710

Bats use the pattern of polarised light in the evening sky to get their bearings, according to a new study.

As well as having unusual echolocation skills and their own magnetic compass, bats are now the first mammals known to make use of polarised light. Other animals with this ability include birds, anchovies and dung beetles.

To make the discovery, published in Nature Communications, zoologists placed bats in boxes with polarising windows before watching them fly home. Light waves normally wiggle all around their direction of travel, but when they pass through special filters – or are scattered by gases in the atmosphere – they can become polarised, so that the oscillations all line up.

“We initially didn’t think that the bats would use polarised light,” said the paper’s senior author, Dr Richard Holland from Queen’s University in Belfast. Dr Holland was one of the scientists who discovered in 2006 that bats navigate by somehow sensing the earth’s magnetic field – but that in-built compass needs to be calibrated.

Other experiments showed that the calibration was happening at sunset, when the bats’ day begins. “We thought that surely, the sun’s disc itself would be a more likely cue,”  Dr Holland told the BBC. But his team recently tested how bats responded when the sun’s image was shifted by mirrors, and found no difference.

So they switched their attention to the pattern of polarised light that appears at sunset, which is already known to be important for various other animals, particularly birds. It’s invisible to humans, unless we wear polarising glasses. “If you were standing looking at the sun, you’d see a dark band going directly over your head, from left to right,” explained Dr Holland. To find out if bats were using this pattern, the scientists put them into boxes with a nice view of the sunset, but only through custom-made polarising windows.

Half the boxes had windows that recreated the normal pattern, and half flipped it around by 90 degrees. Then they took the bats about 20km from their home roost in a Bulgarian cave, released them and tracked them. Sure enough, the bats from the boxes with rotated windows were much more erratic at heading toward home.

In proper scientific fashion, when Dr Holland was collecting the data he was “blinded” as to which group of bats was which – and he initially thought he might be wrong all over again. When a colleague revealed the real designation and they compared both sets of results, it was a satisfying moment. “Whenever you set out to test one of these ideas, it’s always amazing that it actually works!” Dr Holland said.

Although plenty of other animals, including some birds, fish, amphibians and insects, are known to detect polarised light, the only other mammal that we know can perceive it is, in fact, humans.

In certain situations, such as when light reflects off glass or water at particular angles, or when we look at white areas on an LCD screen, some people see a blurry phenomenon known as “Haidinger’s brush” – produced by the polarisation of light.

According to Dr Marie Dacke, who studies animal vision at the Lund University in Sweden, how this happens is still a mystery. Insects, Dr Dacke explained, have specialised receptors in their eyes for detecting polarisation. “But in birds and fish and so on, we don’t really have a clue about how they’re able to perceive this kind of light,” she told the BBC. “I did not expect them to find that in mammals, such as in a bat. So I thought this was really fascinating. The big challenge will actually be to find the mechanism by which bats are able to do this. There is still a bit to reveal before the full story is known.”

Thank you Friends of Stadt Moers!

I just wanted to say a big public thank you to the ‘Friends of Stadt Moers Park’ for a donation to the Merseyside & West Lancashire group for their walk a few weeks back.

Donations to the group are always highly appreciated. The group receives no direct funding so we are entirely reliant on our membership, donations and project funding to carry out any conservation work or outreach.

So once again, Thank you!

Court Hey Bats!

The third in the three week ‘bat-athalon’ was our annual bat talk and walk at Court Hey Park with the Friends of Court Hey Park and again organised by Karen Brady. This walk has the benefit of generous hosting by the National Wildflower Centre who kept the Cornflower Cafe open late especially for us! Thanks for the hot drinks and lovely cakes!

The start was a little late with so many people arriving and settling in. With 70 in and the cafe pretty much full we made a start. First off with the tradition of True and False to break the ice and get some bat knowledge out there for the young and old alike. It still surprises me after three years people still turn up not knowing the answers (they’re all True!!). However, I think we will need to change them for next year…

The attendees were then treated to a less common event. We had managed to arrange for the Batman (H. Green) to join us and bring with him two recovering bats! With the quiz over H and his capable assistant Michael (Robin?) made their way around the tables to show and talk about these fascinating creatures in a bit more depth.

The introduction to some live but injured bats complete we herded the masses from the cafe and out into the park to go and hear some wild ones. We took a somewhat scenic route around the back of the Centre where I had thought we might get some bats using the woodland and pond. Zero bats later we completed the circuit and move to our ‘old faithful’ location which has never failed to produce a bat, nothing, some desperation and silent pleading later we decided to circle back through the car park, when the drizzle started..

The bats must have been feeding high as within seconds we heard the first distinctive clicks, a Bandit (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) had dropped and was foraging right overheard! We moved south and there it was again, further still and a Soprano (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) passed us heading south. We followed it, and that is where we found them. Following the insects pushed down by the drizzle and flying near at head height up and down the paths and roads least five assorted Pipistrelle giving us plenty of time to listen and discuss the calls.

Thank you again to everyone involved and for sticking with us. Hope to see you all next year!

Conserving Bats in Merseyside and West Lancashire