Nov 14 SWOG meeting and bats By Tracy

The SWOG meeting on the 8th November was a great success. We had about 50 members attend and were especially pleased to have Phil Tidey and Judy Walker from the Small Woods Association join us.

Patrick Roper gave us a fascinating presentation on coppice and conservation which will soon be available on line. David King from Batbox brought in some bats and gave an excellent introducion to bats and their habitat.

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Patrick introducing us to the smallest coppice in the world. This one has been on Spring watch!

David King then told us a great deal of information about bats.

 Here is a brief summary 

There are 12000 types of bat, 17 of which live in the UK.

Bats use their ‘hands’ to fly, the hooks on the end of their wings are thumbs and the wings are webbing between their fingers. This membrane is incredibly strong and very fast healing. They are very agile flyers and mostly eat insects for food.  They can see quiet well. Each species has its own call signature, that tells us where it is and what it is feeding on.

The horseshoe bat can send out its echo 200 times  a second! Click here to listen to a bat. They have not changed much in 60 million years!

Pipistrelle bat is the most common, uses echo location and can feed in total darkness. It is often found near houses and can feed in woodlands. They use their echo to build up a sound picture and can detect the thickness of a human hair. Apparently it is a myth that bats will get tangled up in our hair, but that they might be after the midges flying above our heads! They use hedgerows and tree lines for foraging.

All bats hibernate in winter, mostly in dead wood in trees, some in old woodpecker holes. The dead wood keeps a more even temperature.Here is a video of roosting bats in a house – these are brown long eared.

Bats reduce their biorhythms  to almost dead and breathe once every 2 minutes with 6 heartbeats a minute. It is thought that they hang upside down to keep the blood to their heads, they need to keep above freezing. 2- 3 degrees is ideal, in warmer winters they will use up too much body fat in order to keep cool and may die.

Some moths have a sensitivity to ultrasound and some can give out a sound to warn that it is poisonous.  Other moths can freeze up and drop in order to evade capture.

The long brown eared bat can turn off its echo and listen for the insects moving.

Bats will suckle their young for 6 weeks and then teach them to feed.

Bat droppings, ‘guano’ can be recognised by the fact that they can be crumbled into an insect powder, there is no slime.

The law

It is an offence to: take, possess, sell, injure, destroy a bat or its roost. As we carry out activities in our woodlands we must ensure we have taken every possible precaution to protect bats. If in doubt get an expert in.

Forestry commission guide to managing woodlands for bats

Bat conservation trust – scroll down for the link to ‘Bats and the law’

The batboxes that David has for sale are very cool and can pick up the bats echo calls! Please look for information on the website.

Video of thousands of bats at Bracken cave

For more reading on bat surveys.

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