Sunday, May 03, 2015

Bat Woman Arrives.

The Tees Valley Wildlife Trust has appointed a new Bat Officer for the East Cleveland Batscape. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Northumbrian Water’s Branch Out Fund, the two year project aims to establish an understanding of bat populations and distribution in the East Cleveland area. By running local bat events, the project will engage with local communities and encourage the development of village batscapes to create an understanding and appreciation of bats of the local area, which we know so little about. The project launch is in Loftus on the 16th of May, see below for details.

Sarah is very excited about her new role and the project she will be undertaking within the local community. Sarah is from Redcar, but has lived in Moorsholm and Marske. She can often be spotted on the road with her red car with lady bird spots. Her interest in bats stemmed from her experience in bioacoustics, the study of animal communication by sound. Sarah has been working with whales and dolphins all around the world for the past sixteen years and is a marine mammal medic for the Cleveland area. Wanting to be closer to home, to learn more about our amazing wildlife here in Cleveland and to enthuse others, Sarah was thrilled when she was offered the position of Bat Officer. Friends and colleagues have dropped many suggestions that she should have her own bat costume, which she may be coming round to the idea of.


“Bats are cryptic animals that hunt at night so are totally overlooked, but thanks to this new project being launched in the East Cleveland area, bats are at last to be celebrated. Whilst not always considered to be the cutest of animals, bats are a vital part of our ecosystem. Sadly bat populations in the UK have suffered severe declines in the last few decades. For this reason, all bats and their roosts are protected by law. One of the main reasons for their decline is a loss of important habitat for them – woodland, hedgerows and buildings they may have been roosting in. Their declining numbers flag up an urgent need to understand them better before it is too late, and it is important that this knowledge is shared with local communities in order to protect them“ said Sarah.

Small but perfectly formed
“These small but perfectly formed creatures are definitely misunderstood. There are many misconceptions about bats, which we hope to dispel at our events. Lots of people squirm at the thought of a bat, or panic if a bat gets too close, but they shouldn’t. The bats we have in the UK are insectivores, so they only eat insects. This includes up to 3000 midges in one night! So ironically, they actually eat the little critters that suck blood from you. Bats of the UK are shy and are more frightened of you than you are of them. They have been known in the past as flying mice. However, humans are actually genetically closer to mice than bats are! Bats also are very clean animals and spend many hours grooming” said Sarah.

The wooded nature and rural character of the East Cleveland Batscape area gives it the potential to be important for more than eight species of bat, but there are very few records. The project will encourage people to help collect data by loaning special bat recorders to find out if they have bats in their back yard and the wider countryside to build up a picture of our local batscape. It is a unique opportunity to experience unusual wildlife encounters on a local patch. Sarah will provide advice on how to use these bat detectors and the best places to use them to gain recordings.

Unique bat talk and walk will launch the project
Wildlife lovers are being asked to turn up in force to count the range of bat species that are emerging in the town of Loftus. This event is open to nature lovers of any age and will go on until dusk in a bid to observe bats that appear in the evening.

The launch of the East Cleveland Batscape project will involve a talk on bats and how to go about detecting them. The talk will also involve a little on why bats are important and some quirky facts that will interest all ages. Echolocation calls will be played so that people know what to listen out for during a bat walk. The bat walk will involve going outside with bat detectors to see what is flying around as bats emerge for feeding as the sun goes down.
At the launch, and throughout the project, Sarah hopes people will learn to love bats and discover their importance in our landscape.

Sarah said: “We want as many people to get involved as possible. We’ll be running bat talks and walks to identify different bat species, asking for volunteers to take part in surveys and field work and undertaking children’s events to educate the next generation about why bats are special, unique and important to our natural heritage. We hope that getting people involved, in the long term, will contribute to their conservation”.

Saturday 16th of May. Loftus. The old Co-op building. 7:30.
This event is free and suitable for children. The bat walk will be relatively easy, but the route will include some uneven path. The talk will last around 20 minutes and the walk around 30 to 40 minutes. The walk will be followed by some hot soup and to have a chat about the bats that have been seen and heard. It is recommended to bring a torch and wrap up warm.
There will be further events over the next two years throughout the project so keep an eye on the Coastal View for more information. “We really hope to see you at one of our events to help us with this new fascinating programme that you can all become involved with” said Sarah.

To find out more about events or how you can become involved in the East Cleveland Batscape contact:
Sarah Barry, Bat Officer, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust on 01287 636382

As part of the Redcar and Cleveland walking festival there will be a “winged wildlife of the Tees Valley” walk at Coatham Marsh in Redcar on the 21st of June. Meeting at the car park on Tod Point Road, Warrenby at 10:00. Be it ducks, herons, butterflies, beetles or bees, we will stop and admire and identify all winged wildlife along the way. The walk will be approximately 2 miles. Wear sturdy footwear and appropriate clothing. Suitable for all ages.

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