A bat out of place
Early one morning, a few weeks ago, a juvenile noctule bat was found beside a footpath by a member of the public. The bat was being scrutinised by a song thrush, whose actions alerted the walker to the bat. A quick call to the East Lancs Bat Group was made, and a bat worker was dispatched to take the noctule into care.
Tracking down the tree
The most likely place that the bat had fallen from was a roost site in a tree. After a bit of careful searching, the roost was found high up in an oak close to the footpath where the bat had been found. Typically, the roost was so high above the ground that it was out of reach of ladders – we needed a cunning plan!
14 in one go
We started by checking whether the tree roost was still occupied – no point trying to return the juvenile to an empty roost. Using infra red lights and camcorders, we kept a close watch during a suitable evening, and were delighted to see 14 noctules emerge. Why infra red lights? Have a look at the 2 images below – one shows the roost in daylight (hard to distinguish details) and the other shows the roost viewed with the infrared equipment (much clearer).
No joy with mum
The next step was to check whether the mum of the juvenile would step up and collect her daughter. We spent an evening with the juvenile bat attached to a ‘high seat’, with fingers crossed that her mum would fly down and collect her. This has been done very successfully many times with a range of bat species. Sadly, on this occasion, no collection was made. On to plan B.
A fortuitous conversation
Building and maintaining positive relationships is a very important part of being a professional ecologist. In this case, our close work with the local council (Ribble Valley Borough Council) meant that when we asked for some help, one of the environment officers was only too happy to recommend an arborist who might be prepared to assist.
Arborist to the rescue
A quick call to Dan the tree guy ensued and things started to fall into place. Dan was happy to work with us and was keen to see the bat back in the roost as much as we all were. We made plans to meet on the next rain-free day, and the bat had its last couple of days before a new adventure.
Arranging to meet in a layby may cause a few raised eyebrows in some parts of the country – in this case, it was the closest location to the roost tree to park all our vehicles. Dan, his assistant Tom, the bat worker and I went through the essentials as regards preparation, handling and what do in case of outright refusal on the part of the bat, and we were off across the fields.
The rest of the morning was thankfully quite straightforward. Dan climbed the tree to prepare anchor points and check safe routes, then it was time. One final check of the bat’s condition, then the bat went into a bag, tied to Dan’s harness, and up the tree they both went.
Smiles all round
It was a very happy group of people walking back to the cars, everyone smiling and feeling pretty pleased and relieved.
We will certainly be keeping an eye on this roost, and may well include it in our future training courses.
As always, if you would like our advice and support for any aspect of your work, including training for bat surveys and assessments, please get in touch.
If you are involved in a development project, we can provide expert guidance and undertake a wide range of bat surveys and reporting.
If you are an ecologist, we offer 1-1 and small group mentoring, as well as formal training, both face to face and online.