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It's Just Not Summer Without Bats - are they on your smallholding?
12:36pm Friday 6th July 2012 in News
BCT's Heather McFarlane laments the bad weather and praises the volunteers and staff who are trying to make sure that despite the clouds there is a silver lining for bats.
2012 is no ordinary year and as far as the weather goes it seems pretty strange. We had a heat wave in March, a drought in the South East, floods in Wales and Northern England and the wettest April and June on record. While this wet and windy weather has been interrupting Wimbledon, dampening national celebrations and washing out back garden barbeques, what I have missed most of all is our bats. I haven’t really seen any and it just doesn’t feel like summer without those fast moving shadows darting across the skies as sunset.
I am not the only one to notice that it has been a somewhat bat-less summer. Recently I was in Birmingham promoting bat-friendly gardening and hundreds of people told me they hadn’t seen their bats this year either.
Could it be the weather?
I was asked what was behind the “bat-less summer” and in truth we just can’t say for sure. We know bats face long standing environmental pressures, and our bat populations are thought to have declined by 70% in the 20th Century. But recently here at BCT we have also seen unusual activity on our Bat Helpline. Just a few months ago the phones were ringing off the hook with reports of grounded bats. There was a 50% increase in calls in May about bats that had ended up on the ground unable to fly away. It looks like many bats emerged from hibernation only to for the inhospitable, cold, wet and windy weather to return.
Being a bat is energy intensive. You are small, you have to fly to catch up to 3000 insects a night, and you face a nightly struggle to find roosts, safe commuting routes and hunting grounds. Poor weather means that there are fewer insects around for you to eat and makes hunting more difficult. If you don’t get enough food then, just like a human, you can become weak and get exhausted. When bats get too weak to fly, they can end up stuck on the ground, exposed and vulnerable.
Luckily, thanks to the work of Bat Helpline Officers, volunteer bat carers and concerned members of the public, many grounded bats can be saved. My colleagues give advice on how to safely move bats to safer places using gloves, tea towels and shoeboxes. They can help callers keep a bat in a safe container, with a bit of water in a bottle top for it to drink. In more serious cases a volunteer bat carer will often be needed. Trained in how to care for these tiny creatures bat carers can often rehabilitate bats before releasing them back into the wild.
http://www.batconservationtrust.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/its-just-not-summer-without-bats.html . A new edition of the Smallholder magazine has been released.
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