This page provides some summary information for a sample of WBG project work. Keep an eye out for regular updates and news as there is a lot of exciting bat work underway in the county. For further information and to get involved, please contact the group secretary, join The Group, or see our newsletters.
Underground winter surveys (Bath and Bradford on Avon)
A long-running monitoring project covering key underground stone mine sites in the Bath and Bradford on Avon area. The surveys are particularly focussed on horseshoe bats, and are unusual in collecting extensive biometric data from hibernating greater horseshoes. This data, combined with ringing records, are starting to reveal exciting information about the greater horseshoe bat population, including genetic relationships and regular movements between the various sites over the winter period. Warning – underground surveys are not for the faint-hearted or claustrophobic! Project lead: Fiona Mathews.
Stone mine autumn swarming surveys
Another long-running monitoring project focussed on stone mine sites in the Bath and Bradford on Avon area. The project aims to identify important sites for autumn swarming and understand how these sites are used by swarming species of bat, particularly Myotis. Ringing recoveries are starting to reveal exciting information about the bat populations associated with the sites, including evidence of strong site fidelity and long-distance migrations (for example, Bechstein’s bats have been recorded moving between the Trowbridge woodlands, Devizes and several swarming sites). The fieldwork involves harp trapping, mist netting and ringing bats as they are processed – and is guaranteed to provide excellent handling experience (1396 bats of 10 species were caught over 6 nights in 2016!). Project leads: Fiona Mathews, Dani Linton, James Shipman.
Marlborough Tunnel and Savernake Forest
A long-term monitoring project originally set up by Steve Laurence in the 1990s. Work was originally undertaken by WBG under the direction of Steve Laurence to close off the disused Marlborough railway tunnel from trespassers and to install a large number of roosting features to aid with monitoring. Thanks to these efforts, the site is now a nationally-important hibernation site for several species of bat, particularly Natterer’s and Daubenton’s bats. WBG facilitates repair and maintenance work at the site, as well as regular visits through the winter to monitor species and numbers. Ringing recoveries are contributing to our understanding of the site.
The Savernake Forest project work is closely affiliated to Marlborough Tunnel. A network of 150 bat boxes have been installed throughout the forest and are regularly checked by the project team. Over time, mist netting, radiotracking and ringing have contributed to our understanding of the Forest’s bat populations, including a barbastelle maternity roost. Project Lead: Lisa Wade.
Trowbridge Woodlands with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust
This project involves monitoring studies for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust at Green Lane Wood and Biss Wood reserves, primarily aimed at Bechstein’s bats. Annual summer monitoring comprises monthly checks of the bat boxes, inspection for tree roosts, and at least one week-long radio-tracking session. This work is revealing some exciting discoveries, including the largest recorded maternity roost in the UK in a hedgerow tree some 500m beyond the woodland boundary and regular foraging in the wider countryside up to 4km from the ancient woodland habitat. Project Leads: Keith Cohen & Lis Weidt.
Wiltshire Bechstein’s and Barbastelle project
This project aims to fill in some of the gaps in knowledge for Bechstein’s and barbastelle bat in the county. It involves regular mist netting and harp trapping with acoustic lures in woodlands dispersed throughout the county. Where funding and volunteer time is available, radiotracking studies are also undertaken. Substantial information is starting to accumulate on how these species are using Wiltshire – and we now have many dots on the distribution maps! Project lead: Gareth Harris.
Cotswold Water Park Box Checks
In 2005, the Cotswold Water Park Bat Initiative (CWPBI), a project to promote and coordinate bat conservation and study in the CWP, was established. Over time, systematic and extensive survey by the CWPBI has shown that the area supports 14 species of bat, and extremely high bat activity is associated with the extensive wetlands. See the Cotswold Water Park Bat Atlas for full details.
During 2005 to present, the project has undertaken detailed studies with bat boxes, numerous roost visits, trapping surveys and radiotracking. Will Ponting continues with monthly monitoring of a subset of the bat boxes and a long-term soprano pipistrelle ringing study. The objectives of this ongoing study are to record all the Soprano pipistrelles encountered to assess their fidelity to specific boxes, territories if possible, relationships, and individual longevity related to this single site. Every bat encountered has biometrics recorded and is fitted with a 2.4mm ring. Efforts to study the local Nathusius’ pipistrelle population (this species is known to be resident in the CWP) continues and in autumn 2017 a male was caught and ringed (the second in the CWP). Project leads: Will Ponting & Gareth Harris.
Braydon Forest Bechstein’s Bat Studies
A spin-off from the Cotswold Water Park Bat Initiative which found Bechstein’s bats using the CWP in 2006, this project undertakes regular monitoring and ringing studies of a Bechstein’s maternity colony and has undertaken trapping surveys at most of the woodlands in this historic royal hunting forest, confirming Bechstein’s in almost all sites surveyed. Radiotracking work has demonstrated some movement between woodlands and monitoring with bat boxes is ongoing. See the Cotswold Water Park Bat Atlas for further details. Project leads: Will Ponting & Gareth Harris.