In total, Britain is home to 18 species of bat, the largest being the noctule, which weighs as much as four £1 coins,. The smallest, the pipistrelle, weighs as little as a 2p coin and is known to gobble up more than 500 insects in an hour. In fact, all bats rely on a healthy population of insects to keep them going, making them a very good indicator for local biodiversity. That’s why surveying for bats can be such a useful way to see the success of rewilding and other efforts to improve biodiversity.
Here in Avon we are rightly proud of our resident bat populations - the region is a stronghold for Greater and Lesser horseshoe bats, two of the UK’s rarest species – and we are currently undertaking several projects which aim to find out more about them. These little mammals have a characteristically fleshy nose that is shaped like a horseshoe. They can be told apart by size – a lesser horseshoe bat is about the size of a plum, while a greater horseshoe bat is equivalent to a small pear. They are truly fascinating – both to look at, and to learn about.
One of our main projects is centred on the Gordano Valley. A radio tracking study from the 1990s identified key flight corridors for these highly protected creatures to the Gordano Valley from their roosts in which they live and breed. Exciting, yes – but beyond that, we have very little information about them. So our project, funded by the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership, aiming to improve our understanding of how the bats use the landscape, could be genuinely revealing.