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"Remarkable discovery" as Greater Horseshoe bat found in Ireland

A single male Greater Horseshoe bat was found roosting in Co Wexford, Bat Conservation Ireland said today.

Image: Gilles San Martin via flickr/Creative Commons

THE FIRST RECORD of a Greater Horsehoe bat has been made in Ireland.

Bat Conservation Ireland said today that on 24 February of this year, a single male Greater Horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) was found roosting in Co Wexford, a find which it called a “remarkable discovery“.

The discovery, which is the first record of this species occurring naturally in Ireland, was made by Paul Scott, a professional bat worker and member of Bat Conservation Ireland.

He told TheJournal.ie that the find – which has been described as a career-defining moment for him – came while he was doing a survey of a farm building as part of the Heritage Council Grant Scheme.

Hanging from the ceiling

While looking in cellars (where bats are known to hibernate) under the building, he saw a bat hanging down from the ceiling. Greater Horseshoe bats are the only type of bat in Ireland to hang from the ceiling, and tend to be the stereotypical type of bat that people think of as they wrap their wings around them to keep warm.

Other bat species jam themselves into cracks and crevices and don’t hang from the ceiling. As the bat was 2m above him, Scott wasn’t sure at first if it was such a bat, but after revisiting the site a few days later, when the bat was in a different room, he was able to verify it was a Greater Horseshoe.

There are only 9 species that are definitely known to be in Ireland so this is a huge discovery. It is thought this bat must have flown around 100km from its nearest roosting place, south west Wales.

“There is so much that we don’t know about bats,” said Scott, saying that they are not sure exactly why this bat had travelled to Ireland.

Solitary

Its identity has been confirmed by the Centre for Irish Bat Research, University College Dublin by analysing a sample of its DNA.

Greater horseshoe bats are found in a small number of locations in Wales and southwest England as well as across Southern Europe. Its close relative the Lesser Horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) is found in western Counties in Ireland including Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Clare, Galway and Mayo.

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Both species are protected under the EC Habitats Directive as they are vulnerable to loss of roosts and loss of suitable habitat. Thanks to conservationists, the Lesser and Greater Horseshoe bat populations have recently stabilised following a decline of 99 per cent in the UK in the last century.

This very large bat has a wingspan stretching over 30cm, and is called a Horseshoe bat due to a horseshoe-shaped flap of skin on its face that helps in navigation by echolocation in the dark.

At this time of year, most bats are sleeping through periods of cold weather, occasionally waking to feed on milder nights. Bat Conservation Ireland volunteers will now undertake further survey work “to see if this is a vagrant bat that has entered the country by accident, or if this is a pioneer bat looking to extend its natural range”.

Here is a piece on Greater Horseshoe bats in the UK:

(jamicubat/YouTube)

Read: Bat experts gather in Dublin Castle to discuss ‘hot topics’>

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