During September Toby and Stewart along with 4 other members of the Cheshire bat group attended a course which is part of a European Bat Conservation project in the Aveyron valley, France. Mainland Europe has over 50 native species of bats and a wide range of habitats, which provide a great opportunity to observe species which are rare in the UK.

The course was conducted by Marie Joe Savage who holds the relevant licences to trap bats and to oversee other people handling bats.

The Aveyron Region of France ha s a wide variety of landscape features such as caves wooded valleys, mature forests, rivers and heaths which provide high quality feeding, foraging and roosting opportunities for many species of bats.

Greater horseshoe bat caught in the Aveyron Valley
Greater horseshoe bat

Bat surveys were conducted in a different area every evening. A central point was selected around which large mist nets and harp traps were set up to catch and identify a sample of the local species. Transects were walked in areas around this central point to record the wider distribution pattern of species in the area. Anabat bat detectors together with Pettersson D240x time expansion devices were used in order to record any calls at maximum quality.

The mist nets and harp traps had a lot of success and a good number of bats were captured. All were quickly removed from the traps in order to minimise any distress caused. The captured bats were then identified in hand before being weighed and measured and then set free.

Species caught in the traps were;-

Greater horseshoe bat – Rhinolophus ferrumequinum
Lesser horseshoe bat – Rhinolophus hipposideros
Greater mouse eared bat – Myotis myotis
Lesser mouse eared bat – Myotis blythii
Brown long eared bat – Plecotus auritus
Grey long eared bat – Plecotus austriacus
Alpine long eared bat – Plecotus macrobullaris
Common pipistrelle – Pipistrellus pipistrellus
Nathusius’ pipistrelle – Pipistrellus
Kuhl’s pipistrelle – Pipistrellus kuhlii
Natterer’s bat – Myotis nattereri
Bechstein’s bat – Myotis bechsteinii
Daubentons bat – Myotis daubentonii
Schreiber’s bat – Miniopterus schreibersii
Alcathoe’s bat – Myotis alcathoe
Whiskered bat – Myotis mystacinus
The trip proved to be a great experience and a real help to identifying bats in the hand, including the difference between grey long eared bats and brown long eared bats, and also the UK’s newest resident species the Alcathoes bat.