BatChat

Bats in the Channel: Jersey Bat Group

January 10, 2024 Season 5 Episode 51
BatChat
Bats in the Channel: Jersey Bat Group
Show Notes Transcript

S5E51 Join Steve in early summer on the Island of Jersey as he sits down with a trio from the bat group. In this interview we hear about the historic work of the group and the sort of survey work being done at the moment on the Island. With 18 bat species recorded on this 46 square miles of land just off the French coast, we hear there's still plenty more to be discovered. 

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Steve Roe:

Hello and you're listening to BatChat, the podcast from the Bat Conservation Trust, where we take you out into the field to discover the world of bat conservation. Yes, welcome back, folks. This podcast is for anyone with a fascination in the amazing nocturnal mammals that fill our skies at night. I'm Steve Roe professionally, I'm an ecologist and in my spare time, I'm a trustee for the Bat Conservation Trust. Now if you thought my voice sounded a bit odd last time, I was struggling with the dreaded winter lurgi. But I'm glad to say my voice is back to continue with the second half of series five. If this is the first time you're listening to us episodes are released every other Wednesday from now through to the spring. Having just had the festive period last summer seems that little bit further back in time. But this week, we're transporting you across the channel once again, to the island of Jersey. It's the beginning of May, dusk has fallen, and the evening chorus of woodland birds is all around me. I'm stood on a wooded lane on the eastern side of the island of Jersey, there are green banks on either side of the lane covered in firms and Ivy. And the lane slopes down towards a tiny car park where members of that group are getting set up for a night about trapping. Sounds like there's a squeaky gate that keeps being opened. But it's the call of a long-eared owl chick, which is somewhere in the trees in front of me. We did catch a glimpse of it earlier. But now that the light has started to go, it's impossible to say the interview you're about to hear is with three members of the back group after we'd all had a line from several nights are dropping here on jersey. And I'm with Liz Walsh, Henry Glynn, and Dave tipping. And they're going to chat to us about the jersey back projects and how it all started in what we're doing. So do you want to introduce yourselves and how you're going to better start?

Liz Walsh:

So yeah, I'm Liz. I got into bats through the jazz back group, probably about 2016 When Anni Biney was chair, and she was looking for volunteers to help out with hibernation, survey scoping sites and things. And then I found myself sitting in woodlands all night, every night pretty much throughout the summer. And yeah, it's all kind of stemmed from there and slowly gathering the similar kind of skill set. But I observed Annie, Annie using to catch bats in Jersey a few years ago.

Henry Glynn:

It was actually David who started me off on bats. I was doing an internship at the Department of Environment at the time. And David said, Oh, we're going out with the back group to survey at St. Martin's Church you want to come along. So I did. And we did a bit of an emergent survey outside, which is just really cool. And I've never seen anything like it before. And then went and sat inside and the bats were flying around in there, you could hear them had the bat detectors going and it was just a really like magical experience. And from then I was hooked.

David Tipping:

Hi, I'm David Tipping. I inherited a bat survey a kind of static bat survey, working for the Department for the environment that basically didn't work. So um, you know, we put loads of effort into it and it didn't work. I think this happens with a lot of surveys. So we then kind of were looking for a new approach to things. So we picked up and on the iPads monitor Monitoring Survey, which which was kind of running at the time, and I adopted it and ran that for 11 years. And when did that start? We actually started in 2011. But I think the ibat survey probably started a couple of years before that. It's it's, it's the Zoological Society of London. And BCT collaboration type survey. It was Canvas as a kind of continental wide bat survey, I think was a bit optimistic, but it had all the elements in it, you know, it had a kind of pipeline for uploading it had designs on an automated analysis at the end of it all that it kind of fell to pieces after a couple of years. was unfortunate. I think it worked well for us it it kind of did what we needed to at the time.

Steve Roe:

And was that the first sort of major recording scheme for bats on the island then

David Tipping:

we had had an initial Island bat survey back in about 2002 done by Louise Marcus, which was actually it was fantastic. piece of work, it was great. She did all sorts of things. She did walking surveys, and amount of carbon surveys, exit surveys, all sorts of things that she put together. It was only about it, it was about two years work, I think she did. And it kind of started things off. And the outcome of that was it was we were looking for an ongoing solutions about monitoring in the islands. And it was a fixed point, fixed point monitoring that we came up with. It didn't really work in that the analysis, we were depending on volunteers to do the analysis. And it was just, it was just too variable. It was just too big an expectation for a series of volunteers really. So we needed we needed to pick kind of pin it down and do something that was that was more set, you know, have more options for coming up with something that was a bit more robust.

Steve Roe:

So then, Liz, where's that evolved in? And where's this project we've got, you've got me and Dave, over here for the last three, four days to do some trapping, we have to send target species. So what's the purpose of the current project then.

Liz Walsh:

So again, it comes back to this data. Acoustics is being able to do something useful with the data. We're quite good at collecting lots of recordings and records, but it's how we process that data, and how you get reliable information from that. So when we finished the 10 years worth of data on iPads, we commissioned a review of all of that data and BCT won the contract for that. And as part of their report, they they looked at trend analysis. And we could only really get a trend for the common pipistrelle because the common pipistrelle is very, very common in Jersey compared to the other species of bat. So we just didn't really have the numbers of calls of the other species. And that's partly due to the fact it was driven transit. So perhaps, you know, it's that more likely to be encountered there than and it's more difficult to drive a car, you know, within a cluttered woodland and sort of environment. But, so we needed to find a way to sort of improve these automatic classifiers to try and get, you know, a better and more specific call analysis for some of the other species. So, one of the recommendations in the BCTs report was for Jersey to develop its own call library. But to do that, you obviously want a variety of different calls, you don't just want release calls from the hand, because they're not always that characteristic of what you're going to find on an acoustic survey. So we want to sort of identify a few more roosts in the island. And that also feeds into some of the other, you know, useful information is we've got a number of good reefs records across the island. But most of those common pipistrelle roosts or, and the grey long haired Bruce was quite a few known quite sizable grey long haired roosts. But other than a few sporadic records of hibernating bats in a few places. This there's not really any strong data for a lot of the other species of bats that we've encountered on jersey. So we kind of want to increase our knowledge of the roosting features that are being used in Jersey and find out the breeding status of some of the species that we don't have that data for yet. But once we've got the locations of roofs for things like the cools, pipistrelle, we can then record some nice echolocation calls, if we can then identify their flight paths to and from those roofs and if we could find key foraging areas again for those bats that would be really really good give us a good idea of what parts of our countryside really need to protect. Because as with everywhere, you know, jerseys are really small little island and you know, the bats have got somewhere to live but so did the human so there's always that little bit of conflict there. So, you know, trying to find get as much information as we possibly can if we can find some parts to tag so that that's not always as easy as it sounds. No,

Steve Roe:

it's been quite challenging, isn't it and Henry's coming over from mainland because you were from here originally and then live over in London. Do you just want to describe the sort of the habitats that we've been trapping in you know what what what the areas we've been doing our oh gosh.

Henry Glynn:

Yeah, so we've we've mostly been trapping around the woodlands so far in round. One of our question, where did we go? Not for us? This is after three nines of traffic I can I can barely think let alone talk.

Liz Walsh:

So We did a reservoir, didn't we? Yeah,

Henry Glynn:

so we've been mostly focusing around the woodlands but trying to sort of like diversify a bit around the habitats there. So the first night we were out on the place called creepy Valley, which is a little woodlands attached to a sand dune on one side, one of our most most biodiverse sites in the islands. And basically housing estates and urban areas on the other side. So quite an interesting mix, where you might have bats roosting in the urban areas and then commuting through this woodland to get to foraging areas or coming down to forage in The Woodlands. Then yeah, so we also, were at the reservoir The following night, there we go. So the reservoir The following night, obviously just to, you know, get that exposure to wet habitats, which obviously brings out some different species as well. And actually, just going back to what you were saying before, I think one of the light drivers for wanting to take up with the jersey back project, as well, as a lot of the species that we had records for we had like one or two records, we didn't really have a lot of confirmation that they were in the island breeding in the island living in the island properly. So I'm starting to implement some more like advanced techniques for trapping and Miss netting and stuff was a way to try and confirm sort of presence and absence of species and status in the island as well. Which I forgot my saying, oh, yeah, different habitats. And yeah, and so we had the reservoir last night, obviously thinking we've now got some good records of like dog Benton's and stuff in the island and the fuzziness at the time of year as well. It's good for looking for the fuzziness. So it's a nice choice to go for. And then last night, we actually went to one of our most sort of diverse woodlands. It's one of the few woodlands that wasn't cut down in the Second World War. Largely because it belongs to a manner which is protected. And so anyway, it's a really diverse woodland, and it's got oak oak dominated woodlands, with some nice unimproved Meadows alongside that have conservation grazing going on and a light managed for wildlife conservation. So wanted to check that out, again, sort of surrounded by agricultural land, by and large, but you know, in a very country countryside area, as opposed to an urbanised area, so different. So again, potential for different species or different kind of use of the area. For that, but unfortunately, it was cold, and a bit miserable, and we didn't catch much.

Steve Roe:

Yeah, this is my first time on jersey. So the first night like Henry said, one of the most biodiverse areas, forgotten, there were red squirrels on the islands, that was really nice for me to say. And yet the minute of things really nice and lush and green, we've had only been out on the podcast in series one talking about Jersey back group. David terms of the skill set, then, you know, how many people in the back group? And what sort of skills do you have? And what sort of skills is missing and lacking at the moment?

David Tipping:

I think that Liz is probably much better able to answer that question.

Liz Walsh:

It was a range of skills and experience. So there are members of that group that have been involved in the the advanced survey work for a number of years, some of which also have experienced trapping in South America and other places. So there's, there's a range, but there's there's very few. So what we wanted to do also is also collaborate more widely with the other channel islands. So recently, we held our first Channel Island bat forum and workshop to partly to look at getting a Channel Island wide, passive acoustic monitoring scheme. So Henry had done some pilot work on a J bats scheme to follow on from I bats. And when we were sort of looking at that, it would just be so much better if perhaps across the Channel Islands, we were all doing the same thing. So Josie is perhaps a little bit further forward on its bat research than the other islands that don't have quite the resources that we've had the bat work in previous times. So across the other islands at the moment, there's a baileywick bat survey happening, which is another passive acoustic monitoring scheme that the BTO are partnering with the Bailiwick governments to roll out so they're in their third year this year, so they just kicking off with all of their getting their kits out to the volunteers to do their acoustic research. So it's a four year project. So now's a really good time to be actually coming together to get a research project that a monitoring project that will go forward for all of the islands hopefully, which ideally would also align quite well with the, the methodology that is being used will be used in the UK as well. So we've got more comparable data going forward. So we wanted to do something that's more collaborative and help. So open up the opportunities for people from the other islands to see work is going on here. So to be able to come and do emergent surveys if we, if we managed to buy these elusive species and actually managed to radio track them, so to give them the volunteers from both jersey and the other channel islands to get some radio tracking experience, we've also got a couple of guys from our Asian Hornet teams out trapping with us at the moment, who have shown really keen interest in learning about bats, which is really nice to see. But they've been doing some tracking work with the Asian Hornets to be able to find out where their key nest sites are. So they can destroy those nests or being quite an invasive species. So it's really nice to get that diversity and mix and collaboration. Because we work together more, not just with the back group, but the other individuals and NGOs that are on the islands between us, we can work far more effectively, by collaborating and supporting each other and learning from each other. We've been some fantastic conversations going on, on the fat sessions in between processing, and learn lots about lots of different species, we've got people with a particular keen interest in marine biology with us as well. So it's been a really fantastic experience.

Steve Roe:

And I guess what's the, you know, looking into the future, then Dave, what's, what's your ideal vision for the backs of Jersey in terms of knowledge and conservation going forwards?

David Tipping:

Ideally, would that they'd be the golden ticket, that would be the monitoring strategy that enabled us to do proper abundance and diversity at you know, that's, that's what we'd like. But I think that there's no chance that there's one survey that's going to do that, so. So that, like, it's an interesting place, really, because we were so close to France, you know, there's all sorts of potential for migration, we're also on a route between the south of England and France. So you know, continental migration wise, we're well well placed, it would be nice to understand it, there's, there's so much of it with bats that you can get a bigger picture on, and we we don't have that it would be great, it would be great to gain any knowledge on that, really. And there's a lot of alignment between the islands happening at the moment, as Les was saying, we've also got biodiversity centres kind of starting. Starting a more collaborative approach across the islands, you know, we'd go to using an underlying database that will span the Channel Islands, there's so much opportunity to work collaboratively like that. That's including bats in on that would definitely be the place to go.

Steve Roe:

And have you seen technology change over those years? And, you know, thinking back to when the back group started 30 days, what changes? Have you seen in the use of technology in survey methods?

Liz Walsh:

Well, the detectors have got a lot better, haven't they? They're far more sensitive. And when the eye bats, surveys first started off, we're using the time expansion microphones, won't you, David. And, you know, now with the development with good full spectrum recording, for the last few years of the ibex project, use both types. But obviously, you've got far more recordings from the full spectrum. So you know, one of the things that we want to do when we design a new or agree the New Channel Islands about monitoring scheme acoustic monitoring scheme, is to make sure that we we get our technology right at the start. And, you know, obviously there's there's financial constraints, but making sure that we've got something that's is going to stand the test of time, because any monitoring scheme is going to need to go for a good number of years to get that, you know, reliable trend and be being be repeatable. But, you know, one of the things that's we found really important with, especially with the J bats, pilot projects and things is, is that part, that community science element, the public engagement factor of that can so easily be underestimated. You can really change people's opinion and mindsets about bats. They're such misunderstood creatures, and, you know, people don't realise quite how important they are. And what great indicator are, they are off the health of your habitat. So it you know, it's it's really important to have that community element to a passive acoustic monitoring scheme. But that does make it a little bit more tricky to make it that reproducibility so it's this kind of balance and, and that's what we're going to be working together with the other channel islands to try Get a scheme that gets the best of all worlds as far as we possibly can. But it's really early days on that we're just starting to set up a working party for that. But as part of the, the core library project, we've also had an Earthwatch interns student with his last year. And he for his project, he designed a roof swatch scheme. So again, that's joining up with the biodiversity Centre, which is hosted on their website. And it's just encouraging people to look for the signs of a roost. So we're not asking people to go and do a recent inspection, because that wouldn't be appropriate. But just to go and look and see if they can find droppings and you know, kids love to go looking for droppings and things, you know, sitting outside in your garden on a nice sunny evening, and just looking back at the house, and seeing if anything flies out, you know, and logging those calls. And, you know, it's early days, there was quite a good interaction in the first year, but we're hoping to just keep it keep the momentum going on that and maybe develop a level two surveys so that we can then perhaps train up some volunteers to perhaps do proper emergence counts, and lend out some detectors and, and kind of move it up again, in the future years, but, you know, time and resources, but yeah, we were hoping to do something like that. So just improve that. But the public engagement bit is, is so important, because if people love their bats, then they're much more aware of them when they need to do any work on them, and make sure that they get the appropriate support before any developments and things. So

Steve Roe:

you mentioned time and resources and financial constraints. What challenges come with being on an island for a bat group? What are the challenges of a violent back groups then?

Liz Walsh:

Training?

Steve Roe:

Yeah,

Liz Walsh:

yeah, it's, it's brilliant to have you guys here. You know, it's really difficult to necessarily experience as many species in a, in a short timeframe, we've got some very experienced bat workers in Jersey and some professional ecologists, that obviously have they're quite heavy workloads and everything. But to get that sort of diversity and skill set, and to, you know, just learning from lots of different people is really difficult. So, you know, to get all of that group off the island, and, and to go trapping with different organisations, different groups and organisations is really expensive. And, you know, you've seen with the weather yourselves here today, you know, when you, you know, when you you've arranged something like this, you are really down to the elements. So there's a lot of travel costs, accommodation costs, all of those kinds of things that just add to it and make it much more challenging to organise. But it is a small little island as well. So you know, now we've got a bigger diversity of bat workers, you know, as their skill sets are improving, you know, it's it's gets, you know, difficult to make sure that we're not doing too much work in different areas. So again, that collaboration that close working, you know, is really important. And, you know, it's really good, but we've got some, you know, great skill people on the island.

Steve Roe:

How large is the baggage and how many members you've gotten on the active members. I mean, we've had about 1015 people out so far this week.

Liz Walsh:

I think there's from the ATM, which was a couple of weeks ago, I think there's probably about 40 to 50 paid members of that group. But there's not that many that are active. So we've got a couple of the back group that have been out most nights this session, including the treasurer and the secretary, and a previous research officer was sat with us tonight. But you know, we're always after more people. And I think the by the fact that we've run this as a government project on this occasion, it does open it up to people who aren't actually members of that group. So I'm hoping that by encouraging people from different NGOs, with different interests of those that were really just interested in the radio tracking, and now really keen on that. So, you know, hopefully, that will help swell the bat groups, resources. And, you know, some of the ecologists from natural ecology have been out on a few of the sessions as well. So, you know, gave the gathering their expertise into the back group will be really good as well. So if they've, but it's, again, it's really difficult because ecologists are really busy at the same time as the back group need to be so you know, it is difficult, but hopefully, this this helps to swell their numbers.

Steve Roe:

So we've mentioned a few target species that are set between the three of you. Can you name all the species that you've got on jersey or you've had on jersey and you Blood records for no pressure.

Henry Glynn:

Anyone started going to circle?

Liz Walsh:

Do you want to start with a pipistrelles? David? Okay,

David Tipping:

so we've got common we've got a few soprano, I think, the

Liz Walsh:

calls and the Medusas. So that's the four pipistrelles

Henry Glynn:

old record of savvy scripts drill a long time ago. Yep.

Liz Walsh:

We've got at least one. Well, we've got one less a horseshoe bat records a bit occasionally. And we've got at least two greater horseshoe bats. And then we've got some lovely long eared perhaps brown longyear.

Henry Glynn:

Weightless on

Liz Walsh:

the Myotis. We've got your Benton's authority, but have been dropping records of brands and I think we've got letters we've got naturals we've got a nice fairly recent new roost for naturals which is got good good numbers in which is quite exciting. This record Sarah teens and there's I think there's been there's been DNA from leisler. And when we occasionally get acoustic records that would look very much like lies learned. And the nuptials quite debatable. We've never had a nodule in the hand. Not really sure we've really got the kind of habitat that not sure, but there's no there are occasional records, acoustic records that sound really convincingly like a nocturnal, but who knows. Cuz, you know, we all know what acoustic

Henry Glynn:

I'm pretty sure some of the calls that I checked from Jay Betts were confirmed is not true. Yeah.

Liz Walsh:

I've had some that I've thought pass can't be anything else. But you know, you know what that's like, ya know, like when we were Yeah. But they could just be passing over because, you know, which is another reason why we really want to work closely with the other back the other islands to see what's what's going on. So it's what's

Steve Roe:

that 17 species? I think that's what we just counted up to.

Henry Glynn:

I wasn't counting

David Tipping:

I've heard rumour of 18. Yeah. What have we missed? Do

Liz Walsh:

we Oh, yeah. The Jeff Royce. Yeah. How can we forget our Jeff Royce? Yeah, so we've had Jeff Royce in the hand and in a hibernation roost, which was really, really nice to see.

Steve Roe:

And what are your favourite roofs each individually on the island of you've got favourite roofs that you'd like to go and kill.

David Tipping:

So there's what I think is a 12 Century Gothic chapel, covered in Wisteria on the east of the islands, that leaves down its woodland with some ponds blowing, which is stunning, beautiful place.

Liz Walsh:

I, I spent a lot of time with the hibernation surveys. And that's kind of how I first got into bat work. So I probably would go with the vast array of German fortifications, which many of which don't have many bats in are very bad very often. And they take an awful lot of survey hour per bat to find but they're all interesting in a historical view as well as as well as from the bat perspective. But yeah, as there's increasing levels of disturbance in these places, unfortunately, the bat sightings are becoming less frequent.

Henry Glynn:

I've got a favourite reason. I'm more of a sort of wander around and look at the sky and worrying about the text or about the place. Yeah, I don't like standing still for too long. You're

Liz Walsh:

more of a woodland creature, aren't you? Yeah. These are woodland specialists, I'd say more of a Myotis.

Steve Roe:

Who were chatting yesterday, me and Dave, we weren't sure if you had records of autumn swarming in the island.

Liz Walsh:

We have been trying to do some autumn swarming, especially with that. And he was doing that when she was here. She set up a hibernation and swarming project, which is what the the hibernation studies were associated with. We've got very limited amounts of swarming activity. There is a site that I really liked to spend more time trying to especially now we've got the technology of the thermal imaging. And it's quite a difficult site to access though, because it's a sort of see Cliff SEK. So it doesn't mean sort of scrambling down the side of the the side of the cliff face and and perching oneself on a precarious spot. So not really ideal for a harp trap. Although I'm sure with the right will and equipment and volunteers, we could potentially do that. But I think just purely from a point of view with detectors and thermal cameras. If get a decent night It's around swapping time that the wind conditions and the weather and the rain are in our favour would be something to do. But those elements haven't all come together for me in recent years, unfortunately, but it is the one on the radar but yeah, there's there's occasional pips swarming activity, one site where I've been monitoring a natural roost late in the season. But it's only a couple of individuals, I really don't know what goes on with our pipistrelles in the winter. The back group have got some detectors out one in the east and one on the west, which are left out year round. And obviously, the number of files really dies down in the winter. But particularly the one in the West, which is in a lovely bit of woodland, close to a couple of German fortifications, you get a reasonable amount of Myotis activity. So you know, it's quite exciting because you're not having to plough through tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of common pipistrelle files, to find the Myotis. A lot of them are sort of hidden away and noise files for the brain as well. So they seem to be quite hardy, and we'll be flying around quite a lot during the winter, but, you know, just don't know enough about about them. They just need loads more research to do. So I think with our passive acoustic monitoring going forward, we really nice to have an element that is also in the winter, as well as during the summer months just to see, see what's really going on.

Steve Roe:

Great stuff. Dave, Henry and Liz. Thanks very much. Thank you. Massive Thanks to Dave to pink, Liz Walsh and Henry Glenn for taking the time to sit down and chat with me and to the other Jersey back group members. I had the pleasure of spending time with that week. We've put a link in the show notes to the Jersey bat group. And if you'd like to find out more about your local bank group, check out the link which will put you in touch with the nearest group so that you can get involved with things going on near you. We'll be back in two weeks time So until then, I'll leave you with the sound of an early summer's evening on the island of Jersey.