There are lots of ways to help bats, we’ve given a few of them here:
*NB the study of bats does not give anyone right of access to some-one else’s property! If you wish to enter land to study bats there please make sure it is public space or that you get the land-owners permission first.
Garden for bats.
Bats are predators and as such good indicators of a healthy ecosystem. If your garden is wildlife-friendly, chances are it will be bat-friendly too. They use hedges as a hunting ground (plenty of insects) and also as a route to follow to other hunting grounds. Ponds are also a good source of insects for bats, as are night flowering plants such as evening primrose, honeysuckle and night scented stocks. Insecticides are not good for bats at all…
Click here to download a full leaflet on gardening for bats.
Put up a bat box
Some species really like them, others usually won’t go near them, but so long as you’re prepared for a bit of a wait to see whether your local bats like the box or not, have a go! Whatever type of box you go for, it should be thoroughly draught and weather proof. Do not be put off a box by it having a small entrance hole, bats are small and can easily get through a slit 15mm wide. If you put up a box, you cannot open it should bats move in (unless you have a licence) as all bat roosts are legally protected. This is not as inconvenient as it sounds, by simply placing a strip of double sided sticky tape directly under the entrance hole (but not over it!) the tape should catch droppings and enable you to check for residency at your leisure. This technique is unlikely to stick actual bats to the tape! Other information can be gathered by observation of the box, see ‘roost watching’ later,
•Wooden bat boxes are the cheapest and easiest to acquire or make, but compared to the alternatives are less popular than other housing…
There are a range of shapes and sizes to chose from, but in selecting your box make sure that all the joints are tight, the landing plate and interior are rough (so bats may climb in) and that the entrance hole is not too big. Thicker boxes are better, as bats like roost temperatures to rise and fall slowly. See our links page for some suppliers and design ideas. If your carpentry skills leave a little to be desired, open joints may be filled with a sealant such as silicone and left to dry in a well ventilated place. Birds are not too bothered by bad examples of carpentry, but bats really are! Do not be tempted to paint or treat your bat box with preservatives, bats are very sensitive to chemicals and you could end up accidentally poisoning future residents.
•Woodcrete bat boxes are less readily available (but becoming more so via mail order, see our links page) and more expensive than wooden ones, but are generally more popular with bats and last for decades. They are cast from a mixture of sawdust and concrete, ensuring that the resulting box has more stable temperatures and humidity levels, and a draught free structure. Where wooden boxes are occasionally used, studies have shown bats actively seeking out woodcrete boxes, adopting them as permanent roosts and them contributing positively to local bat populations. Use is never guaranteed however!
•Bespoke bat roosts are not things one can buy or get plans for, but there have been a number of artificially engineered roosts built in Northumberland, usually during building construction or renovations. There are a number of commercially available ‘bat bricks’ which are designed to be built into a wall either to providing a new roost (contained in the bricks) sealed from the building or allow bats access to the cavity or existing roost via an access panel. Obviously cavity access is only worthwhile if you aren’t using cavity wall insulation!!! See our links page for suppliers.
Roost watching / bat counting
A good way of studying bats without a licence is to sit and watch them fly, watch where they go and what sort of flight pattern they use. If you know of a bat roost, a very valuable source of information is how many bats are in it, and what species they are. Even if bat ID is not known, numbers and location are still useful as the species can be checked later: the same species is likely to return each summer. A bat detector will enable you to hear a version of their echolocation calls and help with the identification of the species. Position yourself where the bats are about to come out and try to move so that they will be silhouetted against the darkening sky. Keep counting basically until they stop coming out! Remember to subtract bats that re-enter the roost. Counting bats does not have to be an arduous scientific study, some Northumberland roost owners carry out an annual count of their batty lodgers accompanied by friends, a barbeque and a glass of wine!
If you are particularly keen (and ideally, prone to insomnia!) try finding new roosts by watching for pre-dawn swarming. This involves being in a likely looking bat area before dawn and watching for bats congregating, then following the bats back to their roost. Please remember that if your study is not in a public space or on public right of way, that you get the land-owners permission first.
Detectors can be a bit tricky to get the hang of, click on this link to find out more about them or why not come on a bat walk or course and find out how to use one?
You can help us, and the UK conservation of bats, by reporting any roost information to the county recorder.
Click this link
There are a number of annual surveys run as an ongoing scientific study by the Bat Conservation Trust, click here to see what they are and take part. If you do decide to take part, please send your results to the county recorder too, so that your information can help bats locally as well as giving national statistics.
Events and projects
During the summer months members are involved in running a number of bat walks and courses for the public. Click here to download a copy. If you don’t have a copy of Acrobat Reader, please click this link to download software.