Forestry Commission rangers in Northumberland have scaled ladders to call on sleepy bats in a long-term project to keep tabs on their welfare.
Holystone Wood, near Rothbury, Northumberland, is undergoing a long-term Forestry Commission project which will see Holystone Burn become the centre of a diverse mixture of oak, Scots pine and birch forest.
Bats have made the 375-hectare wood a stronghold and will be one of the wildlife beneficiaries of the initiative.
Nearly 60 bat boxes were checked as part of long-running survey work. Amongst the species found were natterer’s bat and also the more common pipistrelle, which like all bats are endangered and on the European Protected Species List.
For years the pipistrelle bat hid a secret – it was in fact not one, but three separate species. The so-called soprano pipistrelle’s echo location system peaks at a frequency of 55kHz and very little obviously differentiates it from its common pipistrelle cousin (which peaks at 45kHz). But some experts have noted that the former has a mild, but distinctive smell, something between chicken flavour crisps, curry and bacon! A third species of pipistrelles is also resident in the UK, the nathusius’ pipistrelle, but it is much rarer.
Tom Dearnley, Forestry Commission Ecologist, explained: “Bats are a great indicator of the health of an ecosystem and the population at Holystone seems stable, which is good news. We have erected bat boxes across the North of England forest district which allows us to monitor species in this and other Forestry Commission woods. Bats have suffered declines nationally over a long period in the UK so this kind of work is crucial.”