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Year one (2008)

In the first year of the project four survey teams (comprising individuals from five bat groups) took part;

  • Cornwall
  • Oxfordshire Oxfordshire survey team (BCT)
  • Surrey
  • South Wales (joint venture from Carmarthenshire and Dyfed bat groups)

Two individuals from each group attended the necessary training and acted as volunteer coordinators for their team throughout the duration of the surveys. These individuals were present on each survey, were listed as accredited agents on the project licence and ensured the responsible use of the equipment at all times.

During the summer of 2008

  • 47 target woodlands were surveyed in 45 10km squares 
  • 3 Bechstein's bats were found during the survey, all of which (2 males and 1 female) were recorded in Surrey.
  • 139 bats of 11 species were captured

 Bechstein's bat trapped in Surrey (Derek Smith)  Surrey survey team (Derek Smith)

Bechstein's breeding 

2008 has been very poor for this species, in terms of the weather and prey availability. In 2008 at least in the south-east, and probably in other areas too, the colonies dispersed before most of the bats gave birth and only an estimated 20% of females with reproductive capacity actually continued the pregnancy on to parturition. This is based on observations of Bechstein's bat populations in Sussex. These populations are part of a long-term study programme

If it is not energetically possible for females to grow the foetus and nourish it via lactation post-parturition, the pregnancy will terminate. There is then no need for the females to remain in a maternity colony and they will go off to forage to build up their own reserves for the following winter. As this occurs they will no longer respond in the same way to the Autobat and catch rates will be lower than expected.

The data collected during the project's field survey, combined with the feedback received from groups taking part, would seem to agree with these observations of Sussex populations.

In view of this therefore, we can suggest that the number of Bechstein's bats found during the project's surveying is not a true reflection of Bechstein's bats, certainly in Surrey and possibly in Cornwall, Oxfordshire and South Wales as well.

Plan for 2009

In light of 2008's summer, the decision has been taken to re-survey with three of the Bat Groups that took part in the first year of the project. As well as the re-survey of the three 2008 groups, a further three counties will be trained up to take part.

In addition to these groups, Somerset have agreed to be a part of the 2010 project and are undertaking the woodland identification phase in 2009. This will provide the group with additional time in which to select target woodlands. Gwent bat workers will also commence woodland selection in 2009, to outline the potential of re-visiting South Wales in the final year of the project.

2009 Survey Summary

  • Cornwall - 2008 re-survey
  • Oxfordshire - 2008 re-survey
  • Surrey - 2008 re-survey
  • Devon (county divided into two) - new survey
  • Dorset - new survey
  • Kent - new survey
  • Somerset - woodland identification 2009, new survey 2010
  • Gwent - woodland identification 2009

For more information on the first year of the project, please download the Bechstein's bat project annual report.

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