In our February Species of the Month blog we featured the Brandt’s bat – a new confirmed species bat for Scotland (http://ow.ly/Zd2OH). Continuing with the batty theme, we now report on an exciting new citizen science survey of bats due to start in southern Scotland in May. And if you live between Fife, Stranraer and the Border you can contribute.
The Southern Scotland Bat Survey has been commissioned by SNH, with British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) undertaking the project with support from the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) and a range of other organisations, see http://www.batsurvey.org/scotland/collaborators/.
Very little is known about some of the bats to be found in southern Scotland, but all that is about to change, thanks to an ambitious project that will enlist the help of people in the area.
The project is required in order to meet an urgent need for more information on the status of several rarer bat species for use in planning, development and conservation.
Finding out more about bats is crucial to our being able to conserve them and, while the focus of the project is on noctule, Leisler’s bat and Nathusius’ pipistrelle, three species that we know very little about, we are keen to use this opportunity to improve our understanding of all bat species that occur in this area.
Anyone in southern Scotland can take part, as the survey requires absolutely no prior knowledge of bats. The BTO are working with other organisations and local libraries to enable the public to use cutting-edge (but easy to use) technology to record bats. The information they collect will be used to help rewrite bat maps for southern Scotland. Several species in this region are thought to be at (or close to) the northern limit of their British (and western European) ranges.
Fifteen Bat Monitoring Centres have been set up across the survey region, from which the equipment needed to take part in the survey can be borrowed, see http://www.batsurvey.org/scotland/bat-monitoring-centres/. This equipment is used to record bats over three consecutive nights, each night at a different location within a 1km square. After completing the survey, those taking part will send their recordings away to be identified and, in return, will receive information about the bats they found. The survey season runs from May until the end of September.
The number of detectors is limited, so anyone wishing to take part should register their interest as soon as possible, by reserving one or more 1km squares to survey online at http://www.batsurvey.org/scotland/sign-up/. After reserving a square, surveyors will be emailed a link to a site where a detector can be reserved at whichever Bat Monitoring Centre is most convenient for them.
As some of these images suggest, it is sometimes possible to see bats flying in daylight, although nearly all activity is during the hours of darkness. Two of our rarer ‘target species’ – Leisler’s bat and the noctule are amongst the earliest to be seen flying – sometimes well before it gets dark. They can be quite visible as they often fly fast above the tree canopy and in quite open spaces, even when summer birds such as swifts are still out hawking for insects. So if you sign up to the project and you’re lucky enough to obtain recordings of either of these, you might want to go out to the same location on a suitable warm, still evening and you might actually get to see one of them in action!
This picture was actually taken in Shetland where there are no resident bats, but species such as this Nathusius’ pipistrelle are occasional visitors. This species looks almost identical to its more common and familiar relatives. Amazingly, one of the key features that identifies it as a Nathusius’ pipistrelle – the pattern of blood vessels in the wing membrane – is so clear in this photograph that a positive ID was possible.
Further information : You can sign up to participate at http://www.batsurvey.org/scotland/sign-up/