The past few weeks have seen some interesting weather in south-west England. In South Devon - one of the priority areas for Grey Long-eared Bats - we have experienced the heaviest snowfall for at least a couple of decades. This has occurred very late in the winter when the first signs of spring have already begun – the impact on hibernating species could be severe – particularly for ‘warm weather’ species like the Grey Long-eared Bat.
Bats (and all hibernating species) build up their brown fat reserves throughout the autumn – long-eared bats can go from about 6g in the summer to over 10g just before hibernation, so that they have enough energy supplies to last them through the winter when food is scarce. Significant fluctuations in temperature can have a great impact on these fat reserves as it is very costly (in terms of fat!) to go in and out of hibernation, particularly at the end of the winter when reserves are running low.
There is a delicate balance within our natural ecosystems that has evolved over millions of years – and this balance is being severely impacted by recent human activities; climate change, habitat loss and invasive species are creating a perfect storm, causing a devastating loss of species and habitats.
However, it’s not all bad! Back from the Brink is working throughout the country to halt this loss for a range of species and habitats. For the Grey Long-eared Bat, a critical habitat feature for them are the species rich grasslands and hedgerows where they forage for food and navigate through the landscape. This is why we are working with landowners to ensure that there are bat friendly areas throughout the countryside – so that when they emerge from hibernation (and are very hungry!) there is sufficient food for them then, and throughout the season.
This month, and throughout the summer we’ll be monitoring this elusive species. As a warm-up for this, our first bat walk is planned for April 26th in South Devon. If you’d like to come along, learn more about this species and how to use a bat detector please get in touch (contact details below) – who knows, we might even hear an elusive Grey Long-eared!
Grey Long-eared Bat Project Officer.