The Birmingham and Black Country Bat Group




Because bat welfare is our highest priority, and because some of our volunteer activities are licensable activities, here at BrumBats we’ve got a progression system for how volunteering for us works. It means that, while you may want to get stuck into advanced surveys straight away, we want you to have some experience of bat ecology, basic handling and identification, and an awareness of the legislation protecting bats (what constitutes disturbance, how licensing works, that kind of thing) before you learn advanced skills. We all need to walk before we can run.

This method of volunteer training also helps us to ensure that there is no favouritism, and that volunteering for BrumBats is a fair and inclusive experience, based on skills, effort, knowledge and experience.

So, if you’ve no experience, you’ll start as a Beginning Volunteer – and there are still loads of things you can learn and many ways you can help us! Here’s the chart showing volunteer progression, and I’ll go into a bit more detail about what’s involved with each stage and role.

Please note that this does NOT include the route and progression towards Voluntary Bat Roost Visitor (VBRV) licence.

* Bat handling requires that you have up-to-date rabies vaccinations.

Here’s a basic run-down of what’s involved with each level of volunteering. Of course, you don’t have to do everything at every level, but we can offer you a well-rounded training in becoming a bat worker. If you plan to do any handling of bats at all, you will need to get your rabies vaccinations, and in most cases, you’ll need to be available to volunteer at night to undertake survey work (except bat box checks and endoscoping). If you feel that you already meet the criteria of a certain level, we’ll just need some evidence such as a reference or email confirming details.

You can volunteer / learn at your own pace. You don’t have to commit to a minimum number of hours or nights, but (as with so many things in life) you get out of it what you put into it.

Level What you need What you’ll learn Where you can go from here
1: Beginner Enthusiasm! And very little else! You need no experience whatsoever to start assisting with surveys, walks and stalls. In order to become a trainee carer, you will need to be vaccinated against Rabies, which we can help you to sort out (it’s free!). At this stage in your training, you will learn loads about bat biology and ecology. You’ll learn useful skills like how to use a bat detector, plan a survey, safely lead a guided walk, plan surveys and activities and, of course, talk to people about bats! When you’re ready to take off the training wheels, you can go on to level 2, where you’ll lead your own walks or stalls, plan and conduct your own surveys or become a fully-fledged bat carer.
2: Improver You need a basic knowledge and understanding of bat ecology and biology, lots of enthusiasm and the impetus to design and undertake surveys. If you are a bat carer, you may need transportation, the willingness to provide live food, and dedication to look after bats. You’ll need extensive experience at level 1. You will learn awesome stuff like sound analysis, and you’ll develop your skills using a bat detector, field identification and also (if you are a bat carer) the identification and handling of bats in the hand. It is the best grounding in bat handling that you can get, and the experience is very rewarding! From here, you can start to think about training for bat survey licences, if that is what you want. You can find out about taking your handling and identification skills to the next level and join the team for bat box checks and licensable activities like endoscoping and hibernation counts.
3: Experienced Dedicated volunteers with good bat ecology knowledge and extensive experience at level 2 can progress to this stage. You will need a cool head, patience, attention to detail, and experience identifying bats. You’ll need excellent awareness of bat welfare and bat legislation and licensing. You’ll be training under someone else’s licence to legally disturb bats for the purposes of science and conservation. You’ll see and handle bats of many species, improve your identification and survey skills. You may wish to continue at this stage for a while and work towards a class 1 or class 2 bat survey licence. You can also progress, after extensive handling experience, to level 4, where the real science begins!
4: Advanced To undertake advanced surveys, you will need extensive experience at level 3. This type of survey requires excellent handling skills, identification skills and an unwavering attention to bat welfare. You’ll learn how to set up and take down nets and traps, how to do identification of difficult species, how to assess breeding condition, age and health. You’ll learn loads of species-specific biology and ecology. From here, with several years of experience at level 4, you can go on to gain Class 3 and 4 bat licences, run your own projects, or begin to be a trainer of new volunteers. The sky is the limit and the science starts here!