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Welcome to the NBG Blog.


Here you can find an up to date report of all of our Bat Group goings on. Anyone is welcome to contribute, so if you are interested in writing something, do get in contact!

By Nicola Faulks, May 8 2019 07:47PM

Written by Hazel Makepeace and Graeme Smart; video footage by Graeme Smart.

Members of Northumberland Bat Group spent much of the weekend of 26th to 28th April helping to collect bat records as part of the City Nature Challenge, an international citizen science event designed to engage people in documenting nature to better understand urban biodiversity and Eric North East.

On the Friday evening we carried out a trapping survey at Gosforth Park Nature Reserve, managed by The Natural History Society of Northumbria.

Common pipistrelle and Whiskered bats were caught and recorded and an otter delighted by giving us some great views outside of the Pearce hide which we were using as a processing station.

Static bat detectors running elsewhere on site during the survey also recorded Common pipistrelle, Soprano pipistrelle, noctule, Daubenton’s bat, myotis bat species and brown long-eared bat on the reserve.

An emergence survey, assisted by Infra-red video, of a noctule roost in an ash tree on the reserve recorded 20 bats emerging from the roost between 20:35 (4 minutes after sunset) and 20:53hrs (18 minutes after sunset). 12 bats emerged in quick succession at 20:52hrs with the others emerging singly or in pairs.

The video HERE shows some of the noctule bats emerging from the tree. It was filmed from a distance using maximum zoom and using infra-red (not visible light) to avoid disturbing the bats using the roost. (The video has been edited to remove periods when no bats were emerging so bear in mind that the bats did not all emerge in the short time of the video clip)

On the Saturday, some members returned to the reserve to check bat boxes. 9 Soprano pipistrelles were found to be using the boxes. One group of 5 (1 male and four female), two females in another box and two solitary males in two other boxes.

Thank you to those members that came along to give us a hand, some good records for the reserve and great to have been able to contribute to the City Nature Challenge event.

By Nicola Faulks, Apr 14 2019 08:26PM

AGM and Talk by John Haddow 14th March 2019.

The AGM took place at 6pm before the 7pm talk, the minutes are available in the members area of this website. So on with the talk, by John Haddow about the Scottish Leisler’s project.

A well attended and very interesting talk.
A well attended and very interesting talk.

The talk was presented at the Hancock museum, (arranged by Hazel) and attracted a bumper audience of about 26 people. The talk centred upon the history of the Leisler’s bat project, from inception to latest findings. Initially distribution maps showed that the Leisler’s bats had a potential distribution across England and Wales, but with a strange satellite colony in South west Scotland, and the only Nyctalus bat found in Ireland. Noctule on the other hand had a distribution that included all of England and Wales, but only the southern portion of Scotland and none in Ireland.

Distribution of Leisler's bats, prior to the Scottish project.
Distribution of Leisler's bats, prior to the Scottish project.

Back in 2010 surveys were undertaken in the Glen Trool area of Scotland, also known as the Cree Valley. Three male Leisler bats and one non-breeding female were caught. This confirmed their presence, but not that they were actively breeding in this area. In 2012 two sonic lures were used in conjunction with triple high mist nest, harp traps and low-level mist nests. 13 Leisler’s bats were caught; of these two males and five females were tagged and subsequently radio tracked.

Interesting information was gained bout the type of roosts and the area of coverage of each bat. It seems that the female bats fly further than the males for foraging, the males often stick to one small area, mature tree and a water body…. But it was also discovered and confirmed in subsequent surveys that this species will also roost in pine trees, especially old Scot’s pines but also spruce trees too.

A roost - sadly the website won't let me use portrait photos!!
A roost - sadly the website won't let me use portrait photos!!

In the years since, more surveys have been undertaken across the southern part of Scotland, involving a range of volunteers. The results now show that Leisler’s bats occur essentially to the west of the M74, from Carlisle to Glasgow, whereas the Noctule bat is more common on the east side of the M74. That said, there are always a few anomalies, occurring across the range! A really interesting talk, with an equally informative Q and A session at the end – and yes, we might well have Leisler’s bats in Northumberland, those at the northern extent of the English population range…

The updated map, the M74 is the rough divide!
The updated map, the M74 is the rough divide!

By Nicola Faulks, Apr 14 2019 08:06PM

27th February 2019

Hazel Makepeace recently organised a session on restringing harp traps, based at her home (?!) the Hancock museum. An informal event, which attracted 12 volunteers, members who wanted to learn about harp traps, and a few who know lots about harp traps.

So, what is a harp trap? Well, it is a metal frame, with vertical lines of fishing wire strung between the lower and upper poles, at about 1cm gaps. The idea being that if you set the trap up on a ride, or a gap between two trees, the fishing line will be too thin for the bat’s sonar to detect, and the bat will fly in to it, falling in to the fabric pocket at the bottom, unharmed. The bats can then be retrieved, processed (weighed, measures, ringed, radio tagged, depending on the mission); then released back in to the wild.

But as we know, fishing line stretches and breaks from time to time; therefore it has to be replaced. What better way to the required work, than at a social event, with tea, biscuits and good humour? Initially we all met upstairs at the museum, where Hazel handed out some leaflets on tying a blood knot (very important) and other information about harp traps. We then all traipsed downstairs to the hallway, to set the traps up.

Between Hazel and Mark and a couple of others with knowledge, we assembled the traps to see what needed doing. Quite a number of the end strings were fangled, some easier than others to unknot. Once done the traps were put up to full height, so we could see if strings were missing or lose. The traps were then laid on their side, the tension was slightly released and the stringing begun…

An example of a blood knot.
An example of a blood knot.

This is where the blood knot, generally used in fishing is so useful. You can loop the fishing line around the horizontal bar, tie the blood knot, then keep it tight under tension. This way, both ends can be tied. Bit fiddly at first, but by the end I think everyone had tied at least one or two.

By the time we finished the knotting and restringing it was about 9pm, time for home or the pub. The traps were disassembled, rolling the lines around the horizontal bars, so that when they are unwound at the start of the season in the field, they should all play nicely, like a musician’s harp – with no missing or lose strings. Well we can all hope anyway!

All the volunteers!
All the volunteers!

A good night, with some great new skills learned. Now to do some trapping…..

By Nicola Faulks, Feb 28 2019 10:00PM

Thankyou to Tina WIffen for the update and to Will Walton for the photographs.

The last set of NBMP hibernation surveys for this season took place on Sat 23rd Feb. We had a full team, with people from four bat groups, and we managed to cover all eleven adits in one day. The weather was kind to us for a change and the cake was up to the normal high standard too, thanks Ray.

A record 18 bats were found, the most ever on one day at these sites. I wonder if the mild weather is making them more visible? I'm sure some of them have been out to forage, especially as so many were near to the portals. Twelve bats were less than 10m from the entrance, three between 10-20m and three deeper. Of these, two Daubenton's bats, at 81m and 43m, were in the same locations as in January, suggesting they have not moved at all.

Interestingly we found nine Natterer's bats, the most in a single survey ever, we saw five in January but only two in December. Natterer's bats used to be the most frequently recorded bat when we started these surveys but recently has been the least numerous bat, until Saturday. We recorded seven Daubenton's bats and two brown long-eared bats.

The Daubenton's bat in the highest adit that has been moving between 81m and 91m in was still at 81m where we last saw it (I’m sure this is the same bat…), the brown long-eared bat had moved again, it was found deep in the arching about 9m in.

On the last survey we had two Natterer’s bats in the entrance to one adit; on Saturday one of those had moved within the same site, another was found next door, the reverse to the last survey.

Three Natterer’s bats and two Daubenton’s bats were found in one adit, the second highest count for this site (six were found in March 2018), all within 10m of the portal.

Our three lower sites held four Natterer’s bats in one, a Daubenton’s bat in another and a Daubenton’s bat was still present in the third at 43m.

In the last sites we checked the Daubenton's bat found above the gate was still there and a second bat was found deeper into this site, only the second time two bats have been found at the same time here. The new site still had a bat in it! The brown long -eared bat found previously had not moved.

Moth count was 217 heralds and 12 tissues, high counts but we did check all 11 sites in one day.

Thanks again for your help, and for lovely cake!

By Nicola Faulks, Feb 27 2019 12:30PM

The February/March issue of the Northumbrian magazine features a lovely article, written by Anthony Toole, who attended two harp trapping sessions with Northumberland Bat Group. He came to Bolam Lake and to Gosforth Park, where he watched the trapping session in progress.

Do give the article a read, it can be found HERE! There are some lovely pictures and a few names you might recognise.

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