Islanders being asked to turn bat detectives

A SURVEY has been launched to help improve understanding of where bats are and what they do.

Anyone in the Bailiwick can take part by choosing a spot from an online map and borrowing automated equipment to record bats.

‘We are so excited to see this project launched in Guernsey, which will not only help further our understanding of bats in Guernsey, but also offers the community the opportunity to get involved and help us record bats,’ said biodiversity officer Julia Henney.

‘We are looking forward to using this information to help protect these elusive but critically important species in the years to come.’

The most common species in the Bailiwick is the common pipistrelle and the grey long-eared bat.

The local initiative has been commissioned by Agriculture, Countryside and Land Management Services as part of the Strategy for Nature.

Coordinated by La Societe, it will use methods devised by the British Trust for Ornithology, which is providing the technical know-how, and La Societe aims to work with and inspire the wider community to engage with an aspect of nature that is poorly known and understood.

It hopes to raise awareness of what bats do for our habitat and why it is important to conserve them.

‘La Societe is delighted to be co-ordinating this project which will provide vital data, enabling informed decisions to be made around the protection of our bat populations,’ said its president, Donna Francis.

‘Being a top predator of nocturnal insects; the data will also provide an indication of habitat biodiversity.’

Alderney Wildlife Trust, Sark School, Guernsey Museum at Candie, Guille-Alles Library, and the Guernsey Biological Records Centre will be ‘bat centres’ from which volunteers can borrow a detector kit with all the instructions on how to take part in the survey.

Volunteers need to pick a square, measuring 500 x 500 metres, from an online map, and place a static bat detector in typical habitat in it for a four-night period twice per year, once between now and mid-July, and then between mid-July and the end of the October.

The bat detector automatically records bat calls to a memory card every time one passes.

After four nights, volunteers upload their recordings to a website, return the detector kit.

Automated sound analysis identifies each sound according to species and send the volunteer results.

The analysis will also identify sounds made by bush crickets and small mammals.

‘The use of passive acoustic monitoring to survey bats is not without its challenges,' said Phil Atkinson, head of international research and principle ecologist for the BTO.

‘Identification is particularly challenging, not least because bats make a diverse suite of calls and there is a lot of variation between both individuals and species.

‘After working on the sound identification of some of the most cryptic bat species that are present on the Bailiwick, we are really excited at the BTO to use the cutting-edge analytical tools that we have developed, to support the first large-scale survey of bats across all the whole Bailiwick.’

n If you are interested in taking part, go to https://www.biologicalrecordscentre.gov.gg/our-projects/bbs/ find out more and reserve one or more 500m. square to survey.

If you have any queries about the Bailiwick Bat Survey project or equipment, email the co-ordinator at batsurvey@biologicalrecordscentre.gov.gg.

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