Bat studies at Whipsnade
Monday 25 July 2005
Last year the Bedfordshire Bat Group and our very own Kevin Frediani, Curator of Plants, pooled resources to study the bat populations at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park.
There are 16 species of bat found in Great Britain, ten of which are currently known to occur in Bedfordshire, and the Bedfordshire Bat Group was formed to protect these bats, record their distribution, survey roost sites and take care of injured bats.
Following the installation of a new hibernacula at Whipsnade, the study aims to find out what species exist on the site, how they use the surroundings including which natural and man made features seem to be important as corridors, where the main feeding areas or potential roosting are, plus to find out if seasonal changes occur in the habits or numbers of the bat population.
The survey is in fact in two areas that follow set routes around the site. They are both based upon a 3km walking route and try to capture as much of the sites main habitats and thoroughfares as possible.
The data is collected by observers recruited through the Whipsnade Staff and the Bedfordshire Bat group using bat detectors, recording sheets and mini disc recordings which are later analysed by an external expert.
To date, studies have taken place on 8 separate evenings, completing a total of 10 surveys which have required over 70 hours of volunteer time.
The results have shown that the trees and woodlands are important for bats as corridors for travelling at dusk, whilst they are also used specifically for feeding by two species of Pipistrelle bats (which echolocate at 45 and 55 KHz respectively).
Myotis bats frequent the woodland bird walk, the trees around the Przewalski horse paddock, and are using the landscape around the new lion exhibit. Whilst the water bodies (mainly the lake by the café) are of special importance to the Daubenton bats and 55 KHz (or soprano) Pipistrelles.
Studies have also shown that where there are gaps in the corridors afforded by the trees and woodlands the bats are not traversing the landscape, where as new trees and water bodies are already being used by the bats as corridors and feeding areas.
Kevin Frediani said: “The work is linked to the site management we do and is forming a very important means to identify and prioritise work on the site for the future. It’s also providing a training opportunity for new recruits to the Bedfordshire Bat Group and will be backed up by lectures and talks in the winter months when the bats are less active.”
Native Species field conservation project - Find out about our work with other animal species found in the United Kingdom.
If you would like to find out more about the Bedfordshire Bat Group visit their website for regular updates and newsletters.