19th October 2018

A female Nathusius’ pipistrelle ringed in the UK in 2015 as part of BCT’s National Nathusius’ Pipistrelle Project has recently been recovered in Belgium. It is the second individual of this species found to have crossed the channel travelling east from England and the eighth found to have made the journey in either direction as part of this project. These recaptures show how far this species can travel. Previously, a bat ringed in Somerset was recovered in the Netherlands and recoveries have been made in southern England of bats ringed in Latvia and Lithuania. A map showing movements and distances covered can be seen here:

Nomadic Nathusius – bat ringed in the UK discovered in Belgium

Nathusius’ pipistrelle is one of Britain’s 17 breeding bat species. Weighing just 8 grams on average it is the largest and rarest of our three pipistrelle species and is typically found around wetland habitats. It occurs across the UK with a peak in records during the late summer and autumn when many individuals migrate from Eastern to Western Europe.

The aims of the National Nathusius’ Pipistrelle Project are to determine the migratory origins of this species in Great Britain and the breeding status of resident populations. Since 2014 volunteers from bat groups have been doing amazing work carrying out trapping surveys at lakes, enabling bats to be examined in order to determine the species, sex, age and breeding condition. Nathusius’ pipistrelles have had small identifying rings attached to one of their forearms before being released. Upon recapture these rings inform bat workers and researchers of the individual bats’ movements.

The bat recently discovered in Belgium was ringed at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve in Sussex by Sally-Ann Hurry who commented on the discovery, “we have all been hoping for another UK ringed Nathusius to be found in Europe, so when the news arrived I was filled with excitement! This find adds to our knowledge of Nathusius migration but as is quite often the case, it also raises many more questions”.

Unfortunately the bat, which had fallen victim to a cat, was not alive when it was found by a member of the public in Heusden in the Ghent region of Belgium. It was passed on to the local wildcare centre (VOC Merelbeke) who contacted David Galens from the Vespertilio bat group who in turn passed the information on to contacts in the UK. As the first recorded female Nathusius’ pipistrelle making the journey from the UK to Europe (the previous record from 2013 was a male ringed by Daniel Hargreaves) it improves our understanding of, and ultimately our ability to protect, the species.

It is thought that Nathusius’ pipistrelle is expanding its range due to climate change and knowledge of its distribution and status in the UK is vital to determining how the species will fare in future. As a migratory species it is dependent on the presence of suitable habitat throughout its whole range and is particularly threatened by wind turbines which bats are known to collide with, leading to high mortality. By increasing our understanding of this species’ movements we should be able to help inform the positioning and management of wind turbines in order to reduce risks to bats.

It would not have been possible to make discoveries like these without the work of the UK’s wonderful network of bat groups whose members have spent many long nights carrying out these trapping surveys. The project was set up with initial funding from the People's Trust for Endangered Species with subsequent funding from several bat groups. Surveys have again been carried out in 2018 and will continue in 2019, increasing our knowledge of this enigmatic species and no doubt leading to further exciting discoveries in the future.

To find out more about the National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project visit this page.

To find out more about NBMP visit this page.