National Bat Conference 2016

The National Bat Conference is exactly what it sounds like – an opportunity for bat workers to get together and talk about new research, new information and new opportunities in the world of bats.  It’s organised by Bat Conservation Trust  and this year the programme was exceptionally interesting, encompassing work on roost and habitat selection by individual members of bat social groups, migration of Nathusius pipistrelles across Europe and top tips on identifying vagrants to the UK such as Kuhl’s pipistrelle, which may turn up more and more often in the UK with climate change.The conference started with some free alcohol at a drinks reception, which set the tone for the rest of the weekend (!) followed by a bat walk around the venue after dinner, or attending the Bat Workers’ Forum meeting for inquisitive types like me.

Saturday’s lectures began with Christian Voight’s talk on migration of Nathusius pipistrelles, which for me was the highlight of the weekend.  His team use a funnel trap to catch bats which makes our mist nets look, frankly, pathetic.  One way of catching not just one or a few Nathusius a night, but literally hundreds.  Amazing.  The research investigated not only the numbers of bats, direction of travel and so on but also metabolic aspects of migration, the value of stopovers for migrating bats and the optimal speed of flight.  Next we examined bat use of native woodland and exotic plantations.

This was followed by the Bat Carers’ Coffee Break to chat about bat care and connect with fellow bat carers working across the country.  Thanks to Maggie Brown for the rehydration mix and pipettes which will definitely come in handy!

Later on Saturday we were treated to some great videos of bat activity obtained via thermal imaging cameras and discussed non-invasive survey methods using DNA and drone-mounted bat detectors, the impact of wind turbine projects on bats, bat mitigation for linear infrastructure and roost selection in Natterer’s bats.  The Pete Guest award was presented by our own Steve Parker to James Shipman for his work on Gib Bats and it was time for the workshops.  There were lots to choose from and I picked one on social calls which was very interesting.

Now at this point I have a confession to make.  After the workshop I was tired, especially after my late night the night before, and I made the mistake of thinking I would have a little nap before dinner.  Fail.  I woke up to the distant sound of folk music and it slowly dawned on me that not only had I missed dinner entirely but that the infamous ceilidh was already underway….. I’m afraid I picked my cosy warm bed over getting up and going out dancing, but I’m told it was a great night even without my glittering presence 😉

Sunday morning I bounced out of bed in time for breakfast, caught up on Saturday night’s gossip and it was into the lecture theatre for the research round-up, Vincent Weir award to Rachael Cooper-Bohannon for her work on conservation of bats in southern Africa and the Kate Barlow award (a new award to help postgrad students conduct important bat research).  The second part of the morning was about roosts and bat habitat, with discussion of roost switching behaviour, environmental aspects of natural roosts and landscape factors affecting greater horseshoe bats.  I then attended the Conservation Evidence workshop on mitigation evidence, though there was too much choice really and I could’ve happily done several others.

On Sunday afternoon we covered sampling volume, reference ranges for bat activity for benchmarking survey results and the work of Pete Charleston who deals with bat crime for BCT.  All too soon the conference was over 😦

I was happy to see that many of my friends from South Lancs and Cheshire Bat Groups were at the conference, as well as several former colleagues and one person I hadn’t seen since we completed our Masters together (19 years ago!!!).  I felt very welcome and everyone was friendly despite the fact that I’d never been to a bat conference before.  It was especially nice to put faces to names for well-known folk in the Bat World like Gail Armstrong and Maggie Brown and lots of people I’d interacted with on Facebook or Twitter.

I would come back next year except that the conference is taking a break next year – boo !

South Lancs Bat Group very kindly sponsored me to attend this event – thank you!

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