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The Forest Diary, entry two

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2011 is the ‘Year of the Bat’ – an initiative to help protect and improve appreciation of these often misunderstood nocturnal creatures. Did you know a tiny pipistrelle bat which (at about 5 grams) weighs less than a 2p coin, can eat up to 3,000 insects in one night?

With the tiny mammals now busy preparing for hibernation, it is a good time to tell you about the Forestry Commission’s ongoing bat conservation work in this week’s Forest Diary…

There are 18 species of bat in the UK and they are all protected by law due to their dwindling numbers.

Here on the SouthCoast, the Forestry Commission is working hard to increase their numbers and ensure they thrive. More than 30 years ago, a unique ‘bat box’ study was set up to research bat movements and their breeding patterns, which quickly became a flagship project for UK bat conservation.

Today, we have dozens of bat box studies across the New Forest and Dorsetand we’ve seen an incredible 4,000 bats bred from the boxes since the 1970s.

My team is responsible for checking on all the bat boxes twice a year – once in May, just before the breeding season, and again in September. Any bats found in the boxes, which are 2km apart, are then ringed and their details logged in a database to so we can monitor what they do and where they go.

The New Forest is home to fivemain species of bat.  The common pipistrelle and natterer’s bat are most commonly found, followed by the delightfully named soprano pipistrelle, the rather cute brown long-eared bat and the larger noctulebat. We are even lucky enough to have three rarer species – the whiskered bat, brandt’sbat and nathusiuspipistrelle – on our doorstep.

Bats are fascinating animals but they are also vulnerable animals and deserve our protection as an important part of our natural environment.