Bats at our places
There are 18 species of bat in the UK, and all of these can be found at some of our special places. We're at the forefront of bat conservation in the UK and produce advice for builders, conservators and foresters who encounter bats.
In the 1970s experts found evidence of widespread decline of bat species in Britain. This led to all 18 species, 17 of these are breeding, being protected by law in 1981. Since then there has been some proof of recovery within the bat population but some have shown very little change from what was already low numbers. The reasons for lack of recovery are thought to be loss of roost sites, especially in buildings; loss of feeding habitats, especially in farmland; and in some cases direct persecution.
A common misconception
Bats aren't blind, they can actually see very well. However, at night their ears are more important than their eyes. Bats shout as they fly and the returning echoes give them information about what is ahead of them. It’s called echo location.
Their shouts are so high in frequency that they're inaudible to us. We use a bat detector to tune in to them. This translates the ultra sound into a frequency that we can hear. Romantically-minded male bats serenade females in mating season.
A common bat, the Pipistrelle, can eat around 3,000 tiny bugs each night including midges, moths and lacewings, which is the equivalent of one third of its body weight. For an adult human this is the same as eating around 137 sandwiches or 24kg of food each day.
During cold or wet summers, when there aren’t many bugs to feed on, bats can go into a semi-hibernating state known as ‘torpor’. This means they expend less energy and can conserve their resources until the weather warms up.
Bats and our buildings
As a conservation charity, protecting wildlife at our places is at the core of our values. Old buidlings and manor houses which we care for are ideal roosting sites for bats.
" Our big country houses and their stable blocks provided the perfect environment for bat roosts, warm enough and private for breeding. We have a special responsibility within the UK and Europe for the care of the bat population. "
A recent conservation project at Wilderhope Manor demonstrates why careful planning is vital to protect the homes of bat colonies in our older buildings.
A dusk and dawn survey at Wilderhope prior to starting work, indicated the presence of summer roosts of Brandt’s bat, Brown Long-eared bats and Common Pipistrelle bats. In preperation for winter, bat's hibernating period, temporary alternative bat roosting provisions were built within neighbouring buildings.
An ecologist observed the work at Wilderhope as it happened, and noted down the location of bat nesting sites as the roof slates were removed. He also advised on mitigation measures throughout the work, including providing a number of small gaps in the slates and roofing felt to allow bats to access the batten void and roof-spaces.
The wildlife mitigation strategy was successful; monitoring is ongoing but during summer 2016 it was found that the bat colony and a colony of nesting swifts had returned to the building.
How to spot bats near you
The best time to spot bats is from May - September. They typically begin hibernating from October through to March/April, so to catch them out flying stick to the summer months. Dr David Bullock, our head of nature conservation recommends that the first half an hour after sunset is when you are most likely to see them.
Climate change means that some bats are extending their range to the north of the country as it's becoming warmer for them to live there. During winter hiberation, if the temperature reaches above 7 degrees and insects are flying, bats wake up to feed before going back to sleep.
To help bats thrive, in addition to roosting sites, they need easy access to feeding sites. They like areas free from light pollution, woodland avenues and long bushy hedgerows so they can move between spots without being exposed to the open.
When you visit one of our places to see nature up close or join a specialist bat walk, you help us maintain our commitment to wildlife conservation.