Bat Walk Review 2022

Back in January of 2022, Northumberland Bat Group applied for funding to two funding sources:

  1. Environmental Records Information Centre (ERIC) North East – Small Grants Fund.
  2. Bat Conservation Trust – Partner Group Support Fund.

The applications from NBG were submitted to gain funding so that we could buy eight new hand held bat detectors; to replace four old detectors and to increase our pool of detectors by four. The application was therefore based on the cost of buying eight Magenta Bat 5 detectors, four from each grant. By late spring 2022, we were very excited to find out that we had been successful in applying for both grants! Very soon after NBG were in receipt of eight brand new Magenta 5 detectors.

Magenta 5 bat detectors
Magenta 5 bat detectors

As part of the funding we had to organize a range of events for our members to attend. Most of the bat walks were organised in late July/August and September (as sun set is a bit earlier than in June!). The following bat walks were organised:

  • Thursday 11th August, Land of Oak and Iron, Winlaiton Mill
  • Tuesday 16th August, Jesmond Dene
  • Saturday 20th August, Belford
  • Tuesday 30th August, Blaydon
  • Thursday 1st September, Morpeth
  • Thursday 15th September, Haydon Bridge
  • Saturday 17th September – Berwick

Only one event was cancelled due to lack of interest, this was at Blaydon. But over the remaining six events we had 71 attendees, ranging in age from 7 to 80 years old. Attendees included individuals, couples and families with children.

Bat walk route in Morpeth
Bat walk route in Morpeth

During each walk all of the bat calls were recorded, then subsequently analysed to species/genus level so that the records, in Excel format could be submitted to ERIC North East. Using the wonders of modern technology, visual maps could also be created for each walk (see example for Morpeth). 

For anyone who has not attended a bat walk, this is generally what they entail:

The organizer walks the route prior to sun set to ensure that it is suitable for the participants. The “bat walkers” arrive at about sun set, at the advertised location, where the walk leader meets them, generally wearing bat shaped dee-lee boppers, so (s)he can be easily identified. A short talk is then given about which bat species are likely to be heard on the detectors, and what they sound like. The hand held detectors are then given out and a short lesson on how to use them (on, off, volume and frequency tuning) is provided. The aim is then to start the walk just after sun set. when hopefully the bats have begun to emerge.

We can’t guarantee the level of bat activity that we will get on a bat walk. Bats tend to be scarce if it is windy and/or wet, or if the night time temperature drops below about 8c. This is why we tend to do most bat walks in August and early September, when in theory the weather is warmer and calmer. But even in summer bat activity can vary – there were hundreds of bats recorded on the 11th August walk, at land of Oak and Iron, but on the 17th September at Berwick, few bats were around, and we had to hunt hard to find them around the sheltered parts of the town ramparts!

During the first two bat walks of 2022, Graeme Smart attended the bat walks with his thermal imaging camera. This proved to be very good for seeing myotis bats (possibly Daubenton’s bats) foraging along the watercourses, in this case the Ouseburn river and the Derwent river. On both walks, the bats tended to be recorded foraging over flat water rather than white water, but on the Derwent river, the bats didn’t seem to mind the small weir.

The short video below shows the bats zooming around over the Ouseburn, in Jesmond Dene.

So as 2023 is now upon us, we hope to get some new bat walk dates in the calendar. If you would like to lead a walk, co-host a walk please use the “contact us” form to let us (the committee) know who you are. It would be great to have more willing volunteers. Also, if you live in an area which you think would be good for a bat walk, then do get in contact, we are always looking for easily accessible locations. 

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