And behind door number four…

20140403_170544

The bats in the flight cage are gearing up for soft release next week!  Paul, Wriggle & Purple have been in soft-release box number 4 (Paul doesn’t really get on with soprano pip Finn, so Finn has been on his own in box 2).  Much to my surprise today, I checked on the boxes to find Paul inside Finn’s box, and Finn cuddled up with Paul’s ladies in box 4!  As precocious as this is, it does mean that both of the boys are now showing return to roost behaviour and are ready for release.

20140403_170235a

So I popped Paul (who by the way is looking magnificent – fluffy and heavy and ready for spring!) into the soft release box, and put fresh water and food in for them.  (When we first started using the flight cage, we had to find food dishes that were perfect for our needs – the right size – I had to be able to fit two of them inside the box – and shape - they had to be shallow and heavy enough that the bats wouldn’t be able to tip them over.  We actually opted for furniture casters from B&Q in the end!).20140403_170513sm

Bats fed, watered and tucked in for the evening (rain will probably mean a night in for them!) I then turned my attention to settling in our new mealworms.  (The squeamish of you should look away now!) If you’ve ever wondered what half a kilo of beetle larvae look like, here you go!  They will keep our bats going for the next few months while our existing colonies breed and recover in numbers.  If you fancy having a go at breeding mealworms for our bats, you can email me for details on how! – Morgan

20140403_165715

2014 Residents in Action

finn

2014 will be our first full year in which we have had use of the flight cage here at BrumBats, and we’re wasting no time, with four residents in the cage already preparing for release within the next few weeks.  Its still pretty cold, so activity is low, but we flew some of the bats as part of their ‘flight test’ to see if they were ready to move in recently and filmed it.  Soprano pipistrelle Finn (above) was not the least bit interested in flying and preferred to sleep so we left him to it in the bat box, but Common pip Paul did us all proud.  Firstly, he showed off is ace flying skills while we filmed him from beneath…

…and then exhibited a particular type of behaviour (return to roost) which means that he is ready for soft release, and will be sent on his way as soon as the weather warms up a bit.  Here’s his fantastic first time returning to ‘his’ bat box…

We’re all very excited about the 2014 season.  We recently ran our Introduction to Bat Care course, and already have a substantial waiting list for the next one – not to mention the BrumBats Flight Cage project is on the agenda for both Midlands Bat Conference and National Bat Conference (I am a wee bit terrified about that one but don’t tell anyone!).

Anyway, hope you enjoy the videos; I hope to be posting shortly to report on our first soft-releases of the year!

-Morgan

Guest Blog: Launch of BrumBats Batlas project!

Another guest blog for you this week, about the launch of our Batlas Project from Ben Wood.  Ben (@BenMarcWood) is an ecologist in training who has been working on the Warwickshire Barbastelle Project. Ben’s interests beside bats include birds, insects and plants.  

b3

Saturday saw the launch of the Batlas project with a training workshop at Sandwell Valley RSPB Reserve. The project involves a network of volunteers and aims to survey every tetrad (2km x 2km square) in Birmingham and the Black Country for bats within the next 7 years and use the results to create distribution maps for each species present.

Being new to BrumBats I arrived looking forward to meeting the group and getting to know some other bat enthusiasts. The afternoon began with an introduction to the Batlas co-ordinators, the three survey areas and instructions on how to carry out the surveys. Attendees were encouraged to meet their co-ordinator and take on at least one tetrad to survey for two nights in 2014.  I chose to cover two tetrads close where I live but I overheard that some keen volunteers were taking at least 4.  We then discussed between us over coffee and cake about where the best potential bat habitat in our area would be were planning to carry out the surveys.

b1

The introduction was followed by an excellent and informative talk on bat echolocation led by Lisa Worledge (@BattyLisa).  Lisa explained the components of bat sounds and how to recognise a few common bat species using a heterodyne bat detector. Having learned to rely on the frequency of calls, I found it very helpful to learn how to split apart bat calls by the rhythm or the length of call. We were aided by some very convincing bat impersonations by members of the group!

b2

The evening concluded with a dusk walk around Forge Mill Lake although, unfortunately, the temperature dropped quickly and not a single bat was heard. Nonetheless at the end of the session, likely spurred on by the coffee and cake provided, the Batlas volunteers were all keen to get started by choosing survey spots and travel routes within their chosen tetrads. I already have some locations in mind and am looking forward to getting out on my bike and listening to some bats.

- Ben Wood

Silver Wings

20140315_102546smWe had a special visitor to the flight cage yesterday – local jewellery designer Anna de Ville, who specialises in custom-made wildlife-themed charms, broaches, necklaces & earrings.  Anna wanted an opportunity to see some bats up close prior to embarking on some new bat-themed designs!  Cersei & Joffrey came out to show off for her a bit – both demonstrating their awesome flying skills, and behaving enough for Anna to get a good look at some of their anatomy up close (thumbs, toes, whiskers & ears were all examined for detail.  It was also a great opportunity for a pre-release flight test for the bats who have now gone back to RAF Cosford  for release! 

20140315_103113smI also got the opportunity to see some of Anna’s designs – which I have to say, totally blew me away!  They were real-looking, yet stylised, and seemed to really capture the essence of the animal (See the badger below!).  I can’t wait to see what she comes up with for bats!  So watch this space, as I’ll share the designs with you as soon as I see them.  In the mean time you can take a look at Anna’s website here: www.annadeville.co.uk 

20140315_104053sm

Guest Blog: Rachel’s Bat Care Story

Continuing the series of guest blogs by our bat carers about their experiences caring for bats, meet Rachel Fryer, one of our newest bat carers:

Rachel checks bat boxes

I have been interested in bats since 2007 and have been attending batty events and carrying out surveys for a few years now. I attended my first bat care training day with Staffordshire Bat Group in 2011. Since then I have had little involvement in bat care.

My early experiences included collecting juvenile bats for another group which I’m a member of, the South East Staffordshire Bat Group in 2013. The first occasion being during one of my honours project bat surveys at a Natterer’s bat roost. At another roost nearby – a Soprano pipistrelle roost which I had identified and counted earlier in the season – two juvenile bats had appeared in the living space. Being “the bat lady” known on site, I was asked to help. It was not possible to return the bats to the roost immediately. So I remembered the advice given by bat carers and placed both bats in a ventilated box with a towel and small bowl of water. I then passed the bats onto another carer from the group with the intention of returning the bats to the roost ASAP. I was eager to hear how the bats were doing but unfortunately these bats and another which I collected, didn’t make it. I found this saddening and disappointing.

I had to consider if I am cut out for bat care. You need to be able to step back, and accept that bats will not always survive. But I also think that to be a carer you need to actually care. So there must be a balance between these two feelings.

I came to know Morgan Bowers well during my involvement with the Black Country and Staffordshire Naturalists group. Some events I help with include bat walks, surveys and bat box checks. I attended some further training with Brumbats; feeding bat pups. And attended a couple of bat releases; an attempted return of 2 juvenile bats to a maternity roost and the release of adult brown long-eared bat, Stella, at RAF Cosford in October 2013. It was a joy to hold Stella and see her fly away and become a wild bat again.

Kevin & Paul snuggling up

Since then I have over-wintered two Common pipistrelle bats; Kevin and Paul. Kevin was a juvenile found grounded and in a weak condition at the end of July 2013. Paul was an adult bat with a torn membrane. Both have been no trouble, roosting together and eating mealworms regularly. Kevin and Paul often vocalised while roosting together and I always wondered what they were saying! I think bat carers have the potential to learn a lot about bats, while also doing their bit to help.

Unfortunately I lost Kevin 27th January 2014 for unknown reasons. This saddened me again. I had a bit of a soft spot for Kevin as he seemed to be good natured. In reality, his less-feisty character may have been a hint that he wasn’t a strong bat. However, Paul is still going strong at 5.8g and as feisty as ever. He flew amazingly well during his two visits to the flight cage. It was great to see him doing so well but also lots of fun! I’m looking forward to seeing Paul soft released with other bats in spring this year. The day he decides to leave the bat box for independence, I will feel I have done my job.

I’m now looking forward to BrumBats ‘Introduction to bat care’ course in March to refresh my understanding and learn more.

If this blog has inspired you to get involved in bat care, take a look at our bat care pages or send me an email: morgan@brumbats.org.uk

Guest Blog: Leigh’s Bat Care Story

I’ve been asking our bat carers to write guest blogs about their experiences caring for bats, and this is the first, by Leigh:

Leigh puts fresh food & water for bats in the flight cage.

My name is Leigh and I became a bat care volunteer last year. I had helped out with Brumbats for a couple of years previously in a more unofficial capacity but decided in September 2012 to become a bat ambulance driver (doing pickups and providing initial short term care). So off I went to get my rabies jabs, which I can confidently say are no different to any other vaccination I have ever had, and signed up for the Brumbats bat care workshop in January 2013.

However, I was called upon to do two pickups at the end of 2012 (one of them because all the other carers were out of town at the National Bat Conference) and unfortunately on both occasions the bat died. This is something we have to deal with and although it was a bit of a blow to have such negative outcomes on my first bat calls I was reminded by my good friend and experienced bat carer, Morgan Bowers, that at least I had provided them with a warm safe place to spend their final hours.

Leigh helps move new bats into the flight cage.

January brought around the bat care course, expertly tutored by Christine Sherlock and Morgan Bowers. It gave me a chance to get some more bat handling experience, gain invaluable knowledge on dealing with the public, the best places to look for ‘lost bats’ trapped in people’s houses, etc and to connect with other bat carers. The next few months were taken up with meetings and planning for the new flight cage (although I couldn’t get to as many of these as I had hoped)!

Then, in June, I got my next bat call. I went and picked up ‘Christian’ who was in a good general condition but had bruising around one finger bone, which could mean break, and a few small punctures in his wing. I handed him over to Morgan who took care of him for about two weeks and I was then able to take him back to the house I had collected him from and successfully released him, much to the joy of Linzi who had called us out initially. This was my first return to the wild!!

Leigh Flies Meemo the Whiskered Bat

Over the rest of the season I had five more calls, two had bad fractures and had to be euthanized. One was a particularly bad compound fracture close to the wrist and I knew there was nothing we would be able to do. I took him to the vets, who agreed, and they put him to sleep. This injury had come from what is a common occurrence with a lot of bat call outs we receive, bat vs cat.

Two of the remaining calls were for bats that on initial examination were in good condition if a little shocked or underweight so stayed with me for a week or so before being released. And finally, there was Woody, who is still in care with Morgan, but should be ready for release in the Spring.

P-diddy gets ready for take-off on Leigh's hand.

And, although I am not a long term carer, I did have a lodger over the Summer for six weeks! P Diddy was a pup, born while his mother was in care, he was fully grown, in the best of health (if a little grumpy) and just needed looking after until the flight cage was built so he had somewhere to learn to fly and eat on the wing. He was soft released at the end of the season, another success for Brumbats!

I know Morgan has already had her first bats of the year coming in, so I better get my kit ready to go as I am sure there will be more bats needing our help over the coming months.

If this blog has inspired you to get involved in bat care, take a look at our bat care pages or send me an email: morgan@brumbats.org.uk

Whole Meal Goodness

photo (33)I’ve just had my first two bats in care for 2014 (thought I’d go with a Game of Thrones theme this year and give them all Westerosi names!), so welcome Cersei and Joffrey! They are likely to be mother and son, and were inadvertently found when a ceiling tile was removed!  They are a bit skinny and lethargic, so feeing them up for release in the spring.

The bats I’ve got in care at the moment have undergone an increase in appetite, and I’m really getting through the mealworms, which got me thinking about how many we get through in a year.  Its pretty easy to estimate, as most bats eat 15 mealworms a day, and we keep track of how many days each bat is in care, so here are the figures for last year:

In 2013 we cared for a total of 79 bats, amounting to a cumulative 4,659 days in care, during which they wolfed down a whopping

70,000 mealworms!!!

(for the calorie-counters among you, that’s 83,000 calories!)

As you can imagine, this does cost BrumBats quite a bit of money, (although we do breed lots of mealworms, we still end up buying over 75% of what the bats eat) so if you feel like making a contribution to bat care, you can always pick up a box of mealworms from Pets at Home, Just for Pets, or any shop that sells live reptile food, and bring them along to a meeting or event.  Our bats will thank you for it!

The very brave among you may even want to have a go at breeding mealworms for us – if you think you’d like to give it a try, drop me an email!

-Morgan :-)