Trapping Myotis and pipistrelle bats with South Lancs Bat Group

In August I had the opportunity to attend three bat trapping sessions with the bat group, with varying degrees of success.  Two of the sessions were aimed at the Nathusius pipistrelle project and involved harp trapping with a lure, as described here and here.  The middle session took place at a well known site where bats swarm during the autumn.  Swarming is about choosing a mate, so if you think ‘bat nightclub’ you will be thinking along the right lines about how bats use this site.

bat swarming site

I’m going to describe the results of the trapping in reverse order, for reasons which will no doubt become clear…The last session was at Pennington Flash, just up the road from me in SLBG terms (we usually meet in Bury and I’m based in Warrington).  I was late arriving as I had been waiting in for the grocery delivery guy, which meant I missed the one bat of the evening (a lovely female soprano pipistrelle apparently) and had to content myself with being there for social reasons and helping to take down the harp trap.  Funny how some seemingly promising sites result in very few bats trapped – there was certainly no shortage of bats around when we were there.

The middle session at the swarming site was a record breaker for me in terms of numbers of bats trapped (51 !) and species observed – I had never seen Myotis species in the hand before and was treated to four different species over the course of the night – Daubenton’s, Natterer’s, Whiskered and Brandt’s.  This will definitely help me on my next hibernation survey when I’m trying to ID a bat from just the face, or a foot, or an ear sticking out….

We used both harp traps and mist nets at this site, but I didn’t see the mist nets as only very experienced people were allowed to check on them.  Fair enough, as I’m definitely a novice when it comes to handling bats.  In addition to the usual information collected about each bat (species, sex, adult/juvenile, forearm length etc) the group ring bats at this site in the hope that ringed individuals will be recaptured in the future so that we can learn more about the ecology of these animals.  The ring is placed on the forearm of the bat where it’s easy to see and won’t interfere with the animal’s daily activities.  Out of 51 bats we did have a couple of recaptures from last year, which was very exciting.  We hope that there will be more recaptures in years to come as we only started ringing in earnest there in 2013.

I’ve saved the first session for last because it was so exciting.  Yes, even more exciting than 51 Myotis bats in one night !!


Yup, Nathusius pips are rare in the UK and to catch four in one night is massively exciting.  Here’s the site:

lake view

It’s nice when you catch anything in a harp trap.  It’s even nicer when you have more than one bat to collect at the same time.  It’s wicked nice when you have to send a friend back to base to collect more bags as you haven’t brought enough with you (each bat is transported back to base for measuring etc and we use a separate cloth bag for each individual).  It is MEGA when you find that suspiciously large, suspiciously shaggy pipistrelle – hello, Nathusius   😀

If you too think bats are a splendid animal and you want to get up close and personal with these highly interesting beasties, join your local bat group and get out there !



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