10th August 2016

Shirley Thompson from the Kent Bat Group and Honorary Education officer at Bat Conservation Trust shares her story of an exciting discovery by the BCT's National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project.

It was only 11.30pm and already the evening had been successful. In the two hours since our two harp traps had been set up we had caught 14 bats of five species, including one Nathusius's pipistrelle, the target species of this project. The catch so far had also included two noctules, the first be trapped at Oare, though this is the third year Kent Bat Group has trapped at this small Country Park close to the Swale Estuary, as part of the Nathusius' pipistrelle project. The noctules, a male and a female were together in a trap - and the male was very noisy in his objections to being interrupted! But the most exciting part of the evening was yet to come.

Harp Trap (photo by Shirley Thompson)

At the next trap check five pipistrelles were found in one trap; each was placed carefully into a separate handling bag and taken to a nearby picnic table to be processed - measured, weighed, sex and breeding condition noted. Two were larger than the three soprano pipistrelles, clearly Nathusius' pipistrelles again, but when Katheryn took one out of the bag she said - 'This one has a ring on!' We thought it might be the return of one we had ringed in the UK in a previous year, and that would have been interesting, but No, looking closely at the tiny band on its forearm, Katheryn was visibly shaking with excitement as she said 'It was ringed in Lithuania!' We all realised the significance of this - more evidence for the amazing migratory behaviour of this tiny mammal, just what we were hoping for.

Ringed Nathusius' pipistrelle
Ringed Nathusius' pipistrelle (photo by Katheryn Leggat)
Map of the bats voyage by Daniel Hargreaves

When all details were recorded and the inevitable photographic session completed, the tiny mammal was released, and flew away, relieved I'm sure. But where was it going, exactly where had it come from, and when was it ringed? Within minutes of its release, Katheryn was on her Smart phone, sending out these queries with its ring number. Thanks to social media, and the international network of both professionals and volunteers involved in the study and conservation of bats, at least some of the answers had come back within a few hours. We can't yet answer 'where next?', but with so many volunteers in the UK and the rest of Europe, discoveries like this are gradually helping us fill in gaps in the jigsaw

Further information:

Kent Bat Group: http://www.kentbatgroup.org.uk/

National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/national_nathusius_pipistrelle_project.html

National Bat Monitoring Programme: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/nbmp.html

Please email question or press enquiries to: comms@bats.org.uk