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Dublin: 5°C Wednesday 25 November 2020

Superhero* nature lovers wanted for Irish bat survey

*Don’t worry, there’s no leaping off buildings involved – just the willingness to volunteer.

2862406253_3caeeeb4f4_z Cute... Source: Gilles San Martin

IF YOU’RE A superhero nature-lover who’d do anything to help Ireland’s wildlife, then Bat Conservation Ireland might have just the job for you.

BCI – which celebrates its 10 year anniversary this year – is looking for volunteers for one of its three schemes, a survey of the Daubenton’s bat. These bats tend to live by rivers, and the survey would involve monitoring them in their habitat after sunset.

All-Ireland survey

Tina Aughney, coordinator with BCI, explained that this is an all-Ireland survey and you don’t have to be an expert to take part.

All volunteers are trained in by the BCI, and this particular scheme is “the most straightforward scheme” people can participate in.

The BCI has been in touch with Heritage Officers and different wildlife groups around the country, and is liaising with them to organise the training. The training is free, and it’s open go anybody who has a wildlife interest.

It’s not an indoor activity though, of course – you have to be prepared to go out to survey a 1km stretch of water for two nights in August. It’s open to adults, although responsible teenagers can also take part, as long as they are accompanied by an adult.  Each survey team must have at least two people involved.

Volunteers will be given a stretch of water in their local area to survey.

Bat detector

So, how do you monitor the bats? You use (of course) a bat detector.

As Aughney explained:

When bats go hunting, while they’re not blind they do use echolocation, ultrasonic sound, which humans can’t hear. The bat detector facilitates us to eavesdrop on hunting calls.

During the survey, volunteers select 10 spots 100m apart, and using very specific methodology, they begin the survey 40 minutes after sunset.

They stay at each spot for four minutes and use the bat detector at a frequency of 35 kilohertz, which is optimal for hearing the Daubenton’s bat’s sound.

The distinctive sound they make is “almost like machine gun calls”.

Volunteers also have a torch – not a very bright one – to help them see the bats above the water.

Daubenton’s bats fly continuously at one foot above the water, either in figure of eights or in straight line passes across the surface.

“It’s detective work,” said Aughney. “It’s a lot of training, a lot of listening and watching.”

Volunteers count every time that a bat passes by. “What we’re measuring is activity,” said Aughney. Over 200 rivers surveyed each year and there were 225 survey teams.

“The scheme is so cost effective because of the fact we have volunteers going out and doing it,” said Aughney. “It makes it very reliable that they all get the same training and all follow the same methodology.”

If you would like to volunteer, you can check out the BCI’s website or email info@batconservationireland.org.

Read: Chinese bats likely source of SARS virus – report>

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