It’s almost the end of the bat season. Any minute now they’ll be finding a place to hang out over the winter. Here in New Buckenham we have had yet another sensational bat-recording summer. Of the 18 species of bat in the UK, we have recorded 14 of them, including the 4 rarest bats in the entire country. These are on the “red list” as designated by the 2020 IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). They are the Barbastelle, the Serotine – both categorised as “vulnerable”, and Leisler’s bat and Nathusius’ Pipistrelle, categorised as “near threatened”.
Our unique medieval village has now clocked up another unique feature. We were the only place in Norfolk to conduct that all-important Norfolk Bat Survey. It started in 2013. We got involved in 2016. But it was suspended 2 years ago due to Covid. People couldn’t access the equipment. However, we were determined and with the help of Batman Superior – Dr Stuart Newson of the BTO, who is the brainbox behind the technology – we kept calm and carried on throughout.
This of all years, was significant due to the extraordinary weather conditions. Since it began, the project has analysed at least 1.9 million bat recordings across this County. We monitor 2 square kilometres of land in and around New Buckenham. We’ve covered more than 20 locations and have tens of thousands of recordings. It’s been a tough year for bats…beautifully hot but the water sources have dried. Many species rely on places like Spittle Mere as sources of insect life. Other species depend on trees and hedgerows…which is not much good if the vegetation is drought-ridden and the leaves dying. Numbers were dipping towards the end of the summer, but the species were still there.
All UK bats are protected by domestic and international law, although a new danger is looming large. The Bat Conservation Trust predicts that repealing all the European legislation post Brexit will have an important effect on bats and their habitats. The intention is to relax rules controlling pesticides, the designation of important sites including AONBs (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest and green belt land. Other legislation intended to support farmers as custodians of wildlife will now undergo a “rapid review”. The effect could be catastrophic. Read details: https://www.bats.org.uk/news/2022/10/a-world-rich-in-wildlife-where-bats-and-people-thrive-together
So what’s where in and around New Buckenham?
New Buckenham Central (Village Green, Church, Market Place etc): Barbastelle, Serotine, Leisler’s Bat Daubenton’s bat, whiskered bat, natterer’s bat, common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared bat, Brandt’s bat, Noctule
New Buckenham North (Cuffer Lane, Tas Valley Way, Allotments, football pitches etc) Barbastelle, Serotine, Nathusius pipistrelle, Leisler’s bat, Brandt’s bat, Daubenton’s bat, common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, natterer’s bat, noctule, whiskered bat, brown long-eared bat, Alcathoe bat. Lesser horseshoe bat.
New Buckenham South (Marsh Lane, Dam Brigg area). Barbastelle, Serotine, Leisler’s bat, Daubenton’s bat, Natterer’s bat, Noctule, Common pipistrelle, Soprano pipistrelle, Brown long-eared bat, Whiskered bat, Brandt’s bat
New Buckenham West (Castle, Chapel St and environs, Green Point). Barbastelle ,Serotine , Leisler’s bat, Nathusius’ pipistrelle, Noctule, Common pipistrelle, Soprano pipistrelle, Brown long-eared bat, Daubenton’s bat, Brandt’s bat , Whiskered bat, Natterer’s bat.
New Buckenham East (SSSI, Common, Cricket Pitch etc) Barbastelle, Serotine, Leisler’s bat Nathusius’ pipistrelle, Noctule, Common pipistrelle, Soprano pipistrelle, Brown long-eared bat, Daubenton’s bat, Brandt’s bat, Whiskered bat
It’s easy to do things by mistake which might damage a bat’s existence, so advice on how to protect them is to be found here https://www.bats.org.uk/advice/gardening-for-bats
and here : https://www.gov.uk/guidance/bats-protection-surveys-and-licences https://www.batsurvey.org/ https://www.iucnredlist.org/about/background-history
GENERAL INFO ABOUT BATS
All bats and their roosts in the UK are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and also under international legislation. European Protected Species of the European Habitats Directive. This means you may be committing a criminal offence if you: 1. Deliberately take, injure or kill a wild bat 2. Intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost or deliberately disturb a group of bats. 3. Damage or destroy a place used by bats for breeding or resting (roosts) (even if bats are not occupying the roost at the time) 4. Possess or advertise/sell/exchange a bat of a species found in the wild in the EU (dead or alive) or any part of a bat. 5. Intentionally or recklessly obstruct access to a bat roost. See: Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) (as amended) Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2017) (as amended). Threats In the UK, bat numbers have fallen dramatically over the last fifty years as a result of habitat loss, destruction of roost sites and changes in agricultural practices, which have reduced the number and diversity of their insect prey. It is estimated that the pipistrelle, our commonest bat, declined by 70% between 1978 and 1993. However, due to protection and the implementation of conservation practices populations have started showing signs of recovery in recent years. Timber treatment, toxic chemicals and artificial lighting. More recent dangers facing bats include timber treatment with toxic chemicals such as creosote and artificial lighting, which some species of bat, such as Daubenton’s and Long Eared bats, avoid. The decline in Serotine numbers is speculated to be because serotines favour roosting in buildings, making them more sensitive to the effects of toxic building materials. The Serotine is hardly ever found in trees, appearing to have abandoned what would have been its pre-civilisation roosts to become semi-reliant on our structures. The first official IUCN Red List for British Mammals,(International Union for the Conservation of Nature) produced by the Mammal Society for Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage (NatureScot) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, has nine categories: Not Evaluated, Data Deficient, Least Concern, Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, Extinct in the Wild and Extinct. The IUCN red list shows that four of the 11 mammal species native to Britain classified as being at imminent risk of extinction are bats. These are: Critically endangered: greater mouse-eared bat, Endangered: grey long-eared bat Vulnerable: serotine and barbastelle. Near Threatened: Leisler’s bat and Nathusius’ pipistrelle.
BRITISH BATS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER:
Alcathoe’s bat Data deficient. Simply not enough readings and records to know. Often confused with other bats (whiskered Brandt’s and Alcathoe) Recorded in Yorkshire and the south of England. Wingspan 20cms, body length 40mm
Barbastelle Rare. “VULNERABLE” Recorded at Butler’s. Fewer than 10,00 nationwide. Reduction of ancient woodland Found in ancient woodland in the south of the UK wingspan 27cms body length 45 mm Barbastelles are rare and classified as threatened. It is one of Britain’s rarest bats and is currently listed as endangered or vulnerable in most European countries. The first known breeding colony
was discovered in 1996 in Norfolk. It has a restricted distribution. In England you’ll find it only as far north as Yorkshire, and in Wales. It is one of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan species with its own Species Action plan in a bid to improve its conservation status. They tend to fly massive distances (15km a night, potentially) so who knows how many we’ve actually recorded…or is it just one going round and round?
Bechstein’s bat Rare. Woodlands in the south of England. wingspan 28 cms body length 45mm. It has a very quiet echolocation call and so is difficult to detect at 50 kHz. Found mostly on the Western side of the country.
Brandt’s bat Data deficient Simply not enough readings and records to know. Often confused with other bats (whiskered Brandt’s and Alcathoe) Wingspan 24 cms body lengthy 3-5 cms. Apparently, the most reliable way is to note the…well…the…how can I say this? The length of …that most private part of a chap’s anatomy. It’s either that or check their teeth!!! Neither of which are going to be very easy to spot as they zoom overhead. They are particularly susceptible to pesticides and chemicals. They hang out (literally ) in old buildings and often new ones! They may roost in the same roof space as other colonies e.g. pipistrelles or brown long-eared bats.
Brown long-eared bat Ears 28mm long wing span 25cms cody length 45mm It’s the second most common bat after the Pipistrelles and its ears are nearly as long as its body!
Daubenton’s bat Usually by water. Skims over wetlands at twilight for insect prey. Roosts in large trees. Wingspan 25cms body length 45mm They need wetlands. 2022 will have been challenging. They are mostly found in woodlands and always choose roosts close to water sources, such as rivers or canals. Summer colonies are formed in underground caves, tunnels, cellars, mines, and underneath bridges. Fortunately, this bat is on the increase…but only if it can find those vital unspoilt wetlands.
Greater Mouse-eared bat CRITICALLY ENDANGERED -IUCN red list 2020 ( on evidence from The British Mammal Society ) A population of 10 in Dorset in 1980 diminished to 1 and that 1 was not found in 2020. Britain’s biggest bat. South coast. Wingspan 40 cms body length 70mm
Grey long-eared bat ENDANGERED Found in England south of the Thames. Wingspan 25cms body length 45mm
Greater Horseshoe bat South west of England and Wales. Roosts in roof spaces in summer. In winter underground caves. Wingspan 34cms body length 64mm.
Lesser horseshoe bat wingspan 25cms body length 40mm Also found in south west and wales . Lesser Horseshoe bat very rare on the Eastern side of the country. They are mostly found in the West country. They used to roost in caves in the winter, now more likely to be in old stables or barns. In the summer they use roof spaces.
Leisler’s bat NEAR THREATENED. Patchy numbers and low numbers of roosts and threatened by wind turbines. High flying among treetops. Attracted to light so may end up around lamp posts. Roosts in buildings and trees Wingspan 30cms body length 6cms
Nathusius Pipistrelle NEAR THREATENED Very low numbers of known roosts and at risk from windturbines . In the case of Nathusius’ pipistrelle, this risk extends to offshore wind farms and installations in northern Europe, because the species is migratory. Feeds on the wing. Moths and flies. Favouring large bodies of water and managed gardens. Solitary roosts
have been found in bat boxes, trees, and buildings. Hibernation sites are unknown, but a few individuals have been found in log piles and behind shutters on boarded windows.
Natterer’s bat Their populations appear to be patchy (i.e. fragmented). There are very low numbers of known roosts, and they are at risk from wind turbines. Parkland and woodland species. Forages low down among trees taking prey directly from foliage. Roosts in tree hollow, barns & roofs. Wingspan 28 cms, body length 4-5 cms. They like deciduous woodland and open water with tree cover. They can often be seen zooming along lanes with high hedges on either side. They’re eating crane flies and midges. They live for about 7 years.
Noctule The Uk’s largest bat. Tree roosting – rarely roosts in buildings. Forages widely over the tree canopy. They particularly like flying beetles such as the large cockchafer. Emerges before dark in summer. Wingspan 36cms body length 4cms. Most bat calls require a detector to be heard, but the Noctule can be heard by some adults and children. Their calls range from 20 – 45kHz.
Common pipistrelle Smallest bat in Britain. Found roosting and foraging everywhere. Live in colonies of 1,000 or more. Wingspan 22 cms body length 3-4 cms. As might be expected there are common pipistrelles all over the place. Pipistrelles are the commonest British bats, weighing around 5 grams (same as a 20p piece). A single pipistrelle can eat 3,000 tiny insects in just one night! Average life span 4-5 years.
Soprano pipistrelles have only comparatively recently been given their own designation in the 1990s. Their call is of a higher frequency..not that you’d know! They eat flies moths midges and mosquitoes. Their predators are birds of prey and domestic cats.
Serotine VULNERABLE population sizes reducing by 1.6% year on year. Increasingly difficult to monitor since so few numbers. Restricted to southern half of England. Forages over pasture and gardens. Returns to the same roost year after year. Wingspan 36cms body length 5-8 cms. Average lifespan 19 yrs. It’s one of the first to appear in the evening The Serotine is one of Britain’s largest bats and is up to 80mm in length. They catch most of their food within 2 km of the roost.
Whiskered bat Data deficient. Simply not enough readings and records to know. Often confused with other bats (whiskered Brandt’s and Alcathoe)
You can listen to bats here: https://www.bats.org.uk/about-bats/what-are-bats/uk-bats#:~:text=We%20are%20lucky%20enough%20to,bats%20in%20their%20natural%20environment.
You can see the bats here: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2020/05/bats-in-gardens/
Interesting bat facts https://wildlifeworld.co.uk/pages/bats
Round up of bats on the red list https://www.mammal.org.uk/2020/08/bats-on-the-red-list/
The Bat Conservation Society sees a very real danger in the repealing of all the European legislation post Brexit. Much of this legislation has an important effect on bats and their habitats. https://www.bats.org.uk/news/2022/10/a-world-rich-in-wildlife-where-bats-and-people-thrive-together The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill – will enable government to “easily, repeal and replace retained EU Law” (The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022 from 31st December 2023. Retained EU law covers a number of vital pieces of legislation, including the legislation that protects bats and their roosts as well as rules for
pesticides and the designation of some of our most precious natural sites. All of these pieces of legislation and more could be under threat of removal if this Bill were to be approved by Parliament. Planning and Infrastructure Bill will “reduce the burden of environmental assessments” and “reform habitats and species regulations” within “investment zones” including in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, (AONBs) sites of special scientific interest, (SSSIs) and green belt land. You can read The Growth Plan 2022 HERE. Environment Land Management Schemes (ELMS), which held promise for supporting farmers as custodians of wildlife and our environment, will now undergo a “rapid review”.