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The Forestry Commission can reveal that the rare Barbastelle bat has established a maternity colony in a Lincolnshire woodland – a first for the county and one of the very few such sites identified in Britain.
The bat is generally regarded as a southern English species, but research has revealed that it is not only present, but breeding in 900 acre Chambers Farm Wood, near Wragby.
The discovery was made by Dave Hughes, Lincoln University postgraduate research student and Principal Ecologist at Lincoln-based Ecological Consultancy, ESL. He has fitted tiny radio transmitters to bats in the Forestry Commission beauty spot, part of the Bardney Limewoods National Nature Reserve, and used harmless nets to catch the mammal. Both pregnant Barbastelles and most tellingly recently born juveniles have been recorded and further detective work led to the discovery of the maternity colony under the bark of a rotting tree.
Wally Grice, from the Forestry Commission, said:
“This is really great news and shows that sensitive management of woodlands pays dividends for wildlife. It means that we now have nine bat species in Chambers, making it a real hotspot for the endangered creature.”
Dave Hughes added:
“We have caught 37 individuals so far, which is a good sized colony. I’ve also found Barbastelles in other woods nearby, but only in Chambers do we have a maternity colony. The habitat here is just right, being in part an old oak wood with plenty of insects to feed on and dead wood to provide roosting sites. Barbastelles are becoming increasingly rare so finding a maternity colony is cheering news.”
Bats have suffered a dramatic decline in the 20th century and are on the European Protected Species list together with otters and the dormouse. The UK population of Barbastelles is estimated at just 5,000 individuals and because of its rarity it has its own species action plan. Listed as ‘near threatened’ on the red list of the IUCN – an international conservation agency – just five colonies were known to exist in England in 2001.
Wally Grice added:
“The bat’s strange name is derived from the Latin for 'star beard' and refers to the delicate beard of frosted white hairs radiating from its lower lip. It has a squat face giving it a `pug-like’ appearance. The discovery of a maternity colony is of national significance.”
The initial discovery that Barbastelles were living in Chambers was made using an electronic detector which captured the unique frequency of its echo location system. That led to the Forestry Commission, Lincolnshire Bat Group and Vincent Wildlife Trust installing 100 special boxes in the woods.
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. To find out more go to www.forestry.gov.uk/eastmidlands
Further information on the conservation status of the Barbastelle can be found at
Media calls to Richard Darn on 0750 8010411