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Whiskered bat on a gloved fingertip

New boxes a hit with bats

Working together with partners from the South Yorkshire Bat Group (SYBG) and Yorkshire Water, the Sheffield Lakeland team from Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, put up 60 new bat boxes earlier in the year and they’re already proving to be a big hit.  A recent survey discovered six of the boxes are already being used by roosting bats, which was more than had been expected that early in the year.  But the most exciting news however, was that four different species of bat were recorded during the survey.  This is just one of the projects being delivered by the Sheffield Lakeland Landscape Project, supported by the players of the National Lottery.

This was the first time that bats had been found in the new boxes during the monthly checks, and it was a great surprise to find them being used by so many different species so soon after being put up.  It is hoped that the boxes continue to be popular with bats in the area, and that this success can be replicated in other areas within the Sheffield Lakeland area.  The species recorded so far are common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared bat and whiskered bat, but it is hoped that more species will be recorded in greater numbers once winter begins and the bats start to look for suitable places to hibernate.

Greg Slack from SYBG said “I really wasn’t expecting to get anything other than pipistrelles this early and I thought that initially we’d get one or two bats in one bat box! It’s great to get use of the boxes within a year and even better to get such good use by different species so early on!”

There’s also a research element to this project and SYBG are trialling boxes made of a new material.  The different box size, box positioning, and even the species of tree that the boxes are put up on is being carefully determined and recorded.  The information that will then be collected will help us understand bat preferences and whether these vary between the different species.  It may take some time to gather enough data to get a clear picture, but it is hoped that the results will help shape bat conservation work in future.

The Sheffield Lakeland team have been working closely with SYBG and Yorkshire Water around their Underbank Reservoir and Brooks Bank Farm to improve habitats for bats, although SYBG are active all around the Sheffield area.

Background

There are eighteen species of bat native to the UK, but they’re not often easy to spot as they’re nocturnal and hibernate during the winter months.   The smallest UK species of bats are the pipistrelles, with a wingspan of between 22-25cm and the largest are the noctule and greater horseshoe bats which have a wingspan of around 38cm.  Their diet is made up of insects, which they catch whilst in flight using echo-location. 

As a group, bats are the only mammals capable of controlled flight and their wings are actually membranes stretched between adapted finger bones in their front limbs.  Their hind limbs meanwhile, are adapted for perching and they roost upside-down.