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Experts are set to pay a house call on bats in a bid to help map the species living North East England.
The Forestry Commission is mounting a major survey to check bat boxes in 155,000 acre Kielder Water & Forest Park, together with checks in woods near Rothbury, including Holystone.
The Durham Bat Group has just finished monitoring boxes in Hamsterley Forest, near Bishop Auckland, Country Durham.
Bats have declined dramatically in the 20th century and are now on the European Protected Species list, along with creatures such as otters, great crested newts and the dormouse.
However, at Kielder - where much of the forest was planted on moorland, starting just after the First World War – new bat-friendly habitats have been created. Eight species are known to exist locally including both pipistrelle species (common and soprano), Natterer’s, Brown long eared, Daubenton’s, Whiskered, Brant's and Noctule. Tom Dearnley, Forestry Commission Ecologist, said:
“We have 232 bat boxes in Kielder and Rothbury, with real bat hotspots like including Sidwood, near Bellingham, Holystone, and Kielder Castle itself which has maternity roosts of soprano pipistrelles and brown long-eared bats Checking boxes is the best way to find out what species are present, which changes according to the age and structure of the forest. This is a good time to survey as we are avoiding the sensitive maternity and hibernation periods.”
All the forest staff carrying out the survey are licensed to carry out this kind of work. After scaling ladders, bats found in the boxes are carefully lowered to the floor where they are sexed, weighed, the species noted and the wing span measured. Amongst the boxes are special ones designed for hibernation which have polystyrene insulation to keep the interior temperature at a stable level during the winter. The Forestry Commission retains natural roosting sites and older broadleaved trees, according to best practice guidelines.
Tom Dearnley added;
“Bats are a good indicator of the health or otherwise of the local habitat. Using that yardstick, the maturing and diverse woodlands at Kielder in particular are providing a haven for the creature.”
Media calls to Richard Darn on 01226 246351. Mobile 0775 367 0038.
Notes to Editor
The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. For more visit www.forestry.gov.uk/northeastengland