Bats, like all living things, deserve their place in our ecosystem. The 18 bat species in the UK are our top predators of nocturnal insects – they are flying pest controllers!

As they are so dependent on insects, monitoring their wellbeing tells us a lot about the general health of our environment. The CRT’s Wildlife Monitors track bats on CRT properties to understand what impact our land management and farming practices are having.

Static monitor provides insight into orchard bats

At Awnells Farm in Herefordshire, Wildlife Monitor Ruth Moss borrowed a static monitor from local bat expert James Bisset to record the bats’ ultrasonic calls. For a period of four weeks during July and August last year, the equipment was placed in the farm’s 13-acre orchard.

Previous data collected revealed that more than six species were present amongst the fruit trees, including serotine, common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared, noctule, and several myotis species.

The static monitor recorded an average of just over seven species of bat each night and 163 bat call sequences. The sounds included echolocation calls used to ‘see in the dark’ and calls to communicate with each other. There were also an average of nearly 32 feeding buzzes recorded each night, demonstrating that the orchard is used as a feeding ground.

Ruth Moss said: “The data show that the orchard is an important habitat for bats. It is managed organically, so insects have been allowed to thrive and this is contributing to a healthy ecosystem.” Installing and inspecting bat boxes is another helpful way of monitoring populations. Ten boxes have been installed at Awnells Farm and a further 10 on Turnastone Court Farm.

Batting first in Cambridgeshire

Dr Vince Lea, Head of Wildlife Monitoring, conducts an annual survey of bats on Lark Rise Farm in Cambridgeshire as part of the Bat Conservation Trust’s National Bat Monitoring Programme. The data he collected during 2021 shows that bat populations on the farm rose for the first time since 2017.

Vince said: “This survey monitors four common countryside species. We recorded increases in the number of common pipistrelle and soprano pipistrelle, however the larger bat species, noctule and serotine, are still very scarce. None were detected on the formal survey for the National Bat Monitoring Programme, but we did find some on a bat walk earlier in the year that explored some of the farm’s insect-filled wildlife corridors around the brook and meadows.

“We survey the meadows less often but more thoroughly, following a route first instigated in 1998 by bat expert Bob Stebbings. Those surveys, which have a longer history, reveal an even more impressive come-back of bats, going from practically zero to dozens of individuals and the presence of several species, including the nationally rare barbastelle.”

CRT Trustee and Tenant Farmer Tim Scott’s wildlife-friendly approach to land management is helping Lark Rise to buck the broader trend in Cambridgeshire, where bats are faring poorly. Agriculture in the county tends to be dominated by arable farming, so there is often insecticide use and little in the way of animal dung to attract insects.

Nine bat species heard on Bere Marsh Farm

Conservation and monitoring succeed when they are done collaboratively. At Bere Marsh Farm, Dorset Wildlife Monitor Andy Fale held a bat walk and local bat expert, Colin Morris, brought echolocation equipment. Colin recorded nine species on the farm, which was a fantastic result for all the volunteers and CRT staff that help to make the farm a haven for wildlife.

To monitor the bats in Dorset, Andy typically follows a fixed route at different times throughout the year. He has tracked four species during these surveys, including the three pipistrelle species and the rare greater horseshoe bat.

Land management practices at Bere Marsh Farm, including installing bat boxes, running the farm organically without insecticides, and leaving areas to wilderness, mean that there is plenty to tempt bats onto the farm.

Please donate to help us buy a bat camera

When we restored a barn at Turnastone Court Farm in Herefordshire in 2017, and turned it into an Education Centre and accommodation, we placed a bat lodge in the roof space.

We would like to install a camera system to allow us to show visitors young and old the bats living in the lodge, to raise awareness of these vulnerable and fascinating creatures. The camera system will also help us to monitor bat populations on the farm.

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