The Woodland, Flora & Fauna Group began championing the welfare of our local bat populations in 2008/9 when we recognised their need for assistance. A grant was obtained and scores of roosting and hibernation boxes were installed in a wide area of local woodlands by our volunteers. They have provided safe havens for roosting bat species continuously since then. Each year they are all checked by a licenced team and the results recorded in our local data-base and copied to Natural England and the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre.
One of the bat hibernation boxes mounted on a woodland tree.
Each box is visited annually.
The latest checks undertaken reveal that they are continuing to support our bat populations. Teams of volunteers accompanied by a licenced person visited every location with 3 section ladders to inspect the boxes. It requires a high degree of fitness from each person to carry, assemble and raise the ladder to the required high elevation the boxes are mounted at.
Ladders are positioned to be at the right height and standing on stable ground for safe working.
Team members carry ladders sections to each box location.
One person foots the ladder while another examines the box.
Some boxes are found to contain hornets each year and have to be avoided when their presence is detected.
This one was sufficiently late in the season when the hornets had become drowsy.
The work also is undertaken within a short time scale to enable all locations to be visited, so several days each week are necessary to complete the activity. Our progress with these checks was complicated by the long period of continuous wet weather that limited the number of dry days available to undertake them. Ladder work to these high levels can be extremely hazardous in wet conditions as well as very uncomfortable to the volunteers. With no advance accuracy in the predictions of the weather forecasters, project days to carry out these visits had to be organised at very short notice when a ‘dry window’ suddenly appeared. Trying to match that with the differing availability of volunteers at short notice proved very difficult but the task was achieved eventually.
With weather conditions so unfavourable to bats we braced ourselves for lower levels of occupation than usual, however we were pleasantly surprised by the number found, probably due to the dry sanctuary and stable environment the boxes provided.
Fortunately many boxes contained bats like the one above and were duly recorded.
This shows one of the many common pipistrelle bats found roosting peacefully within a box.
They are often found in huddled groups either hanging from the roof or clasping the walls.
This box like many others showed evidence of frequent use by the number of bat droppings found within.
We continue to expand our conservation effort with an increasing number of boxes and by covering new locations at every opportunity when funding becomes available. Our ambition is to make a significant lasting improvement to their survival prospects despite the shrinking areas of natural habitat they require to sustain them.