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Third article from Bat Conservation Trust: first published in CJS Weekly Friday 5 February 2016

Logo: Bat Conservation Trust

National Bat Monitoring Programme – a volunteer based project

The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) relies on and encourages the involvement of the public in bat conservation. Volunteers are, indeed, at the very heart of bat conservation in the UK - without their dedication and support much of our work would not be possible. BCT is very fortunate to have the help and support of over 2000 volunteers!

Volunteers conducting a sunset sunrise survey  (Shirley Thompson/Bat Conservation Trust)
Volunteers conducting a sunset sunrise survey (Shirley Thompson/Bat Conservation Trust)

The National Bat Monitoring Programme (NBMP) is a great example of a volunteer-based “citizen science” project. The NBMP monitors bat populations in the UK by carrying out an array of surveys, carefully designed so that anybody can take part in monitoring these fascinating but easily overlooked mammals. These surveys are all carried out by dedicated volunteers who collect data on a wide range of species, thus contributing to our knowledge of how bat populations in the UK are faring year after year.

As well as being of great value to bat conservation, the surveys are fun and rewarding to carry out! The NBMP runs different surveys which cater to different levels of experience and knowledge.

Beginners might want to start with theBeginners might want to start with the Sunset/Sunrise Survey or Roost Count. The former does not require any previous bat surveying experience as it entails watching out for bats as they fly by either at sunset or sunrise
and looking for swarming activity, an often spectacular sight which might indicate the location of a roost. To participate in the Roost Count you would need to know the location of a roost and count bats as they emerge at dusk.

2 volunteers conducting a field survey  (Philip Briggs/Bat Conservation Trust)
2 volunteers conducting a field survey (Philip Briggs/Bat Conservation Trust)

If you already have some experience in surveying bats, particularly on how to use a bat detector and identifying common British bat species with it, there are more advanced surveys you can participate in. The Field Survey entails surveying a pre-determined route with a

heterodyne (tuneable) bat detector and listening out for noctule, serotine, common pipistrelle and soprano pipistrelle. You should not survey alone so will need one or more friends or family to tag along. The Waterway Survey is quite similar to the Field Survey but is
simpler as you are just looking for one species, Daubenton’s bat, which mainly feeds on insects low over the water surface. You would walk along a set stretch of waterway and in addition to a heterodyne bat detector you would only need a torch to spot the bats skimming the water surface for insects! It is equally important to monitor bat populations during their hibernation period, which is why the NBMP also includes Hibernation Surveys which are carried out by volunteers who are licensed to monitor hibernating bats.  You can read about hibernation surveys in more detail in the article published in previous issue (here).
 
If you are looking for volunteering opportunities and want to be a part of bat conservation sign up for one of our surveys! You can read about each survey in more detail and find which is the best one for you here: http://nbmp.bats.org.uk/Surveys.aspx.

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