Can’t See the Bats for the Trees

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Image copyright Andrew Palmer

Essex Woodland Bat Project

Essex Bat Group is starting a new project looking at the bat communities of the county’s woods.  Woodland is one of our oldest and possibly least altered habitats, and yet most of our woods have never been surveyed for bats and we know little about which species occur here.

Surveys have been carried out at our largest sites (Epping Forest and Hatfield Forest), at Weald Country Park, at clusters of woods in west Uttlesford, Marks Hall Estate, Writtle Forest, Langdon Hills and the Roman River valley and several smaller sites.  Most of these have been undertaken by volunteers using hand-held detectors, although trapping sessions have also been carried out at Epping, Hatfield and Weald.  Last year we also used static detectors, which were left in position for up to a week, at Hatfield and Writtle Forests.

Over the past few years, our surveys have found all ten of the currently known Essex species at Hatfield Forest and Weald, although the presence here of other habitats (such as wood pasture and lakes) may account for the high number of species.  Targeted surveys for barbastelle at west Uttlesford and Writtle Forest were recently successful in finding this species in clusters of smaller woods.

There are several good reasons for organising a systematic county-wide survey to add to what knowledge we have. The new project will aim to identify as many species as possible in the surveyed woods, so enabling us to compare bat communities between sites and perhaps even guess at why they differ and what can be done to enhance habitats

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