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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Bats: mysterious and misunderstood – It’s time to go batty about bats says the New Forest National Park Authority

A rare Bechstein’s bat in the New Forest.
Photo Credit: Colleen Mainstone, Hampshire Bat Group.
To some people they bring to mind vampires and horror stories. But the New Forest National Park Authority says Hallowe’en is the perfect time to discover that bats are fascinating animals full of many mysteries.

The New Forest is a stronghold for bats and it is thought that 13 out of the 17 resident UK species can be found here.

The National Park Authority and the Hampshire Bat Group volunteers have been working over the past few years to help two of Europe’s rarest species.

Volunteers have been surveying Bechstein’s bats and barbastelle bats in the New Forest, both of which like to live in ancient woodlands. Until recently only a handful of breeding sites for either species were known in the UK.

National Park Authority Ecologist Ian Barker said: ‘The United Nations has designated 2011 as Year of the Bat and it’s the perfect time to dispel lots of myths about these incredible creatures. Bats aren’t harmful and are very good for the environment.

‘We know very little about Bechstein’s and barbastelle bats. Licensed handlers have caught some of the animals to identify, measure and record them, as well as fitting them with a tiny transmitter so we can learn where they roost and forage. None of this harms the bats and the transmitters fall off after a couple of weeks.

‘We have discovered four new colonies of Bechstein’s bat and two new colonies of Barbastelle bats – which is great news for the species and for the New Forest as their presence indicates a healthy environment.’
The information gathered will guide land management within the New Forest to help the species survive.

Ian says the best places to see bats are at dusk near water, such as Eyeworth Pond near Fritham and Hatchet Pond near Beaulieu. However time is running out this year as the bats will be preparing to hibernate.

‘There are lots of ways people can help bats, which have legal protection as they are dying out at a rapid rate,’ Ian said. ‘You can put up a bat box, add insect-loving plants to your garden to attract bats, or join Hampshire Bat Group to get more involved.’

More details of bats in the New Forest and how to help are on the National Park Authority’s website at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk.

Bats by Phil Richardson
In this fully revised and reformatted edition bat expert Phil Richardson takes the reader on a guided tour of the nocturnal world of bats: where they live, how they feed, and how they survive in almost every habitat on the planet. He uses his experiences of bat watching around the world to describe their complex life cycles, explaining how you can watch and study bats and help conserve these often threatened mammals. He also introduces many of the different species that have fitted so well into the environment. Amazing, fascinating, bizarre are words that barely start to describe the bats of the world. Read more...

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