December 2017 - Local Bats

 

Brown long-eared bat - Photo with thanks to Seth Lambiase

 

Brown long-eared bat - Photo with thanks to Seth Lambiase

 

 

The common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle and brown long-eared (BLE) bats are those most commonly found in the UK, and all have been confirmed present in Bawburgh. In addition, the Daubenton's bat has been found foraging over the river. Others such as noctules are likely to forage over the river, sheep pasture, meadows and woodland. Less certain, but still likely present, are Natterer's and barbastelle bats. So, four species of bat have been confirmed in Bawburgh, and 3 more species are likely to be present.

Bats are often referred to as flying mice; in fact, they are not related to rodents. Bats are long-lived even in excess of 30 years (a UK study estimated BLE average lifespan at 15 years). Bats produce only one baby a year and offspring survival is largely dependent on the weather, as their food is flying insects. All bats are of conservation concern because of their particular habitat requirements and their low propensity to recover from population reductions.

 There are many pressures on bat populations including those brought about by new housing developments, i.e.

 a) demolition/conversion/refurbishment of existing structures and hence possible destruction of roosting sites.  

b) the felling (or isolation) of trees which may be roosting sites.

c) displacement/destruction/isolation of valuable foraging and commuting habitats such as woodlands, hedgerows and pastures/paddocks.

The Northern Distributor Road route will undoubtedly impact on bat populations, due to land-take and habitat severance and, because of this, has been the focus of extensive surveys.  Low-flying bat species, such as the BLE, are particularly vulnerable to traffic mortality. Norfolk County Council has attempted to avoid ecological impacts as much as possible, but a degree of habitat severance is unavoidable. Norfolk County Council is to re-visit the 'bat bridge' idea as a means of providing a safe way for the bats to cross the new road; hopefully this will be an improvement on those over the A11 which were not successful.

Conversions of existing properties, including roof spaces and lofts, and the materials used, such as breathable roofing membranes, can also influence local populations. If you have bats in your loft they are protected by law and it is an offence to block access to their roosting sites and an offence to kill, injure, disturb or handle bats without a licence.

I would like to thank my neighbours, Keith and Janet, who have a maternity roost of BLE in their loft in summer, for providing the inspiration for this article. I would especially like to thank Seth Lambiase, a consultant ecologist working in bat conservation, for the photos and facts on conservation presented here. I have modified his own words.

 

linhargreaves@bawburghvillage.co.uk

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