BatChat

Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project with Helen Parr

December 09, 2020 Bat Conservation Trust Season 2 Episode 17
BatChat
Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project with Helen Parr
Show Notes Transcript

S2E17 The weather has certainly got chilly in the last few days, but back in late October, it was still mild and Steve visited a bat colony which was still in residence in its summer roost. He meets up with Helen Parr, community engagement officer for the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project. They discuss how the project has been received by the community over the last five years and what achievements its had whilst wandering around the countryside of the south-west, visiting the habitats that the largest Greater Horseshoe bat colony in western Europe relies on to thrive.

So tune in and discover how this National Lottery Heritage Fund project has been giving a helping, er...wing, to the Greater Horseshoes of Devon.


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Steve Roe:

Well, it might be October, but these greater horseshoe bats are still in their summer roost, and you can hear them leaving around me into the darkening sky. This week, I'm in the southwest in the county of Devon. Welcome to BatChat. Yes, welcome to this week's episode of BatChat from the Bat Conservation Trust. Thanks for downloading this episode. We hope you enjoy it. I'm Steve Roe. And as you just heard this week, we're in the southwest of England, the day after making those recordings of greater horseshoes, leaving their roosts in late October, I met Helen Parr from the Devon greater horseshoe bat project to find out what the project has achieved as it comes to a close. I started off by asking Helen to tell us a bit about herself and how she got involved in the project.

Helen Parr:

My name is Helen Parr and I'm the community engagement officer on the Devon greater horseshoe bat project. I started on the project back in 2014, which was actually our pilot year. So two of us on the project at that point. And then as we got confirmation of our lottery funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we then had started on a five year project. So we're just sort of coming up to the end of that. Now, my previous sort of background is as a spaces conservationist who used to work for the Woodland Trust. And then I went more into environmental education sort of tree planting with, with school groups of school children and other people. So this job really appealed to me because I enjoyed that the education side of things and the conservation and the engagement work. So it was a really good way of being able to do that. And although I'm not a bat specialist, but obviously I've learned a lot about bats. And my role in the project is to sort of promote that information and enthusiasm and try and get people engaged in the project.

Steve Roe:

So we're stood outside a ruined church on top of a hill, why are we here?

Helen Parr:

Okay, so we're here because we're quite near the largest maternity roost for the greater horseshoe bats in the in the whole of northern Europe. So we're not going to specifically say where we are. But we're on one of the quite well known flight flyways, or flight paths of the greater horseshoe bats that that roost fairly near here. And so that is the largest roost of its kind. So it's a really important one in Devon.

Steve Roe:

And why was the project set up? And how long has it been running for?

Helen Parr:

So the aim of the project is to secure the future for greater horseshoe bats in Devon. And Devin is a stronghold for these bats. You know, their numbers have declined by 90% in the last sort of century, last few decades. And so it seemed like a really good place to sort of focus the efforts on you know, securing a future for these bats, and hopefully reversing that decline stabilising it and then hopefully see and an increase in the numbers of bats

Steve Roe:

Cool; shall we have a look round the church?

Helen Parr:

Yeah. This was destroyed by arson

Unknown:

And do the horseshoes from the maternity roost ended up foraging around the churchyard here?

Helen Parr:

I think. Yeah, so this church, unfortunately, it's in ruins now. I mean, their main towers still intact. But over the last sort of 150 years, it's had a sort of run of misfortune really. And I think it was first hit by lightning strike, then that was repaired. And then it was in the late 1800s. Part of it was destroyed by us and, and then in World War Two. Lots of the windows were shattered by some German bombs being dropped nearby. And then in the 1990s, it was affected by arson again, and it was turned into this ruin that you can see now, but the structure is still here, but obviously there's no roof on it. And I think it must have been decided at the time that it just wasn't possible at the cost of rebuilding it. So it's this ruin now but it does mean that the graveyard and the land around the church is quite good for wildlife. It's left you know, it's not manicured, so it's quite rough grass, and it's it's good for the insects that the greater horseshoe bats need to eat.

Steve Roe:

And looking through the broken windows, you can see the surrounding landscape of the rolling hills of Devon. Why is the Southwest such a stronghold for the greater horseshoe bats.

Helen Parr:

So I think about 100 years ago that greater horseshoes were actually found right across the whole of the southern part of England and Wales. But over time, their range has contracted by about half and so that we only find them now in the southwest and parts of southern Wales. And it's all to do with loss of habitat unfortunately. So as development has increased in the southeast and increase intensification of agriculture over the last 100 years, this has just resulted in loss of habitat, so less insects, so less food for the bats. And so they're obviously they're gonna do well, where there is more food availability, and places for them to roost and places them to hunt. So Devon is actually quite good in that respect. We have, you know, lots of the habitats they need her. And although we have lost lots of our hedgerows, just like other parts of the country, we still have that kind of network of smallish fields and hedges that are really important for the bats as they're echolocating in navigating their way around the countryside at night.

Steve Roe:

I was gonna say like looking down the landscape that's one of the key features you can see those small parcels of fields with those that that connectivity of hedgerows isn't

Helen Parr:

Yeah, it's really fantastic sort of views on today it? across over the trees as they're turning colour and you can see the little copses and woodland edges on the edge on the edge of Dartmoor, particularly as you get onto the tops of Dartmoor. Obviously, it's not so much tree cover. But these edges, although they're fairly high, above sea level, you still got this sort of patchwork of hedges and you've got the rivers and streams and quite close to the river dark here. So that's an important river feature in the landscape as well. And also, next to the Church there's a farm, which is some of the work we've been doing is with that farm, and there's lots of cattle grazed pastures around here. And where those where the cattles aren't wormed with really toxic wormers, we find that the less toxic worm treatments result in lot more dung beetles in the cow paths. And that's really important pray for the greater horseshoe bats. So this sort of area's got it all really, even though we're quite close to a main dual carriageway. But despite that the bats seem to be doing well here.

Steve Roe:

So what are the different elements of the project? You mentioned farming, and you'd mentioned the habitat connectivity. What are those different elements of the projects?

Helen Parr:

Yeah, so the three main areas of the projects are community engagement, farm advice, work, and scientific work. So my role is working on the community engagement. And that's to raise awareness and to engage whole communities and schools and members of the public around Devon, in raising awareness of this bat, because a lot of them won't know anything about bats, perhaps obviously, they're nocturnal. So lots of people have never even seen the bat. And also, they've probably never even heard a vote, or hadn't five years, five or six years ago ever heard of a greater horseshoe bat. And so by raising awareness means that as we come to the end of the project, we hope that that message is now there, out there in the communities across Devon, and will be sort of taken all everything that, you know, people have learned about the importance and how lucky they are to have this special batch living on their doorsteps that will be taken on. And the farm advice element of the project is to work with landowners around our focus priority areas, which are around the maternity roost of these bats, because that's obviously really important to maintain the population is that the habitats are healthy around the roofs. And while people in communities can do lots in their gardens, obviously, there's the wider landscape. And so the farm there's two farm advisors that have worked on the project team, and they've carried out hundreds of advisory visits over the last few years, as well as training workshops, assisting landowners is into putting stewardship applications in with items in their application that are good for bats, such as orchard restoration, or hedgerow planting, Orchard planting, and raising particularly raising awareness about the whole parasite management issue. And often people just didn't know they go and go and buy the worming treatments that they need in the store and they didn't really know that one would be more toxic than the other. So once they realise and know that there are small things they can do to help. They've been really positive and enthusiastic about supporting the project and supporting the bats. So that's really nice to hope that that will go on to the future. Now that people know all about it. And then the third element of project is the scientific research so trying to find out more about bats. And we've done that through some targeted research survey work using Sn two and more recently SM for bat detectors, also anabolic detectors. And we've also run our Devon bat survey, which is a big citizen science project, getting lots of volunteers involved in helping us gather even more fat data.

Steve Roe:

And the community engagement side of it, has there been a hunger from the public and the schools to absorb that information? Has that been something that's been quite receptive from the community?

Helen Parr:

Yes, it's been really good. Schools are so busy, it's actually hard. Sometimes even when you offer them a free visit for something. They're like, Oh, I don't know if we've got time. But when I've been able to go into schools, I actually added up the numbers recently, because we're doing all our end of year reporting, see, and I've reached over five and a half 1000 Children, that's mainly primary, but also some secondary, and some special schools as well. And that's not counting all the staff and the teaching assistants, and maybe their parents if they would go home and talk about it to their families. So they've just all been really enthusiastic because they think that's maybe a bit scary, or they don't know much about it. And when you tell them about it, they're really excited. And they want to do something to help. So I think it's really nice. In these stressful times that we're in that they can, instead of worrying about the world at large, they can actually do something positive, to help something that's living on their doorstep.

Steve Roe:

And what sort of things you've been doing with the children at schools, has it been practical stuff or more classroom based stuff?

Helen Parr:

Yeah, well, a mixture of both really, and it's really, it's been all about whatever they've been interested in and tried to make it quite flexible. And I've set up a bat buddy award scheme, which they can join up to. And once they've done 10 things towards each level of award, they get can get a bronze, silver or gold award for all the activities that they've done. So it's been a really fun way of engaging them, and about 30 of those awards have been sort of given out. And as the project ends, we hope we're hoping to put that as an online award on our website, so that any school anywhere in Devon or in the country really could sign up, use all the resources and activities that we've developed and added to our website and take parts. And so that will carry on as well hopefully,

Steve Roe:

Give us an example of some of the activities that you would do outside within them.

Helen Parr:

Yeah, so Well, one good example is actually a school that's in the village here. And we went out for the day actually. So they learned about bats in class. And then we went out for the day, didn't cost the school anything, you know, that's often a barrier for school trips and things. We walked up to the local farmer here, and they kindly let us wander around the fields. And we talked about the importance of dung beetles. And so cow pats at first they were like, What do you mean, we're going to look in a cowpat. And so we got some sticks and we poked around campus and we had a little sheet with a guide of different types of dung beetles. And they found all the dung beetles in the carpets and we just said, it's such a you know, such an important prey item for the bats. But if the if the animals are looked after in a certain way, then a not wormed with really toxic sort of wormers then you get locked instead of a sterile cow pat with no insects in it. You get these cow pats that are sort of alive with dung beetles, and other fly dung flies, which are really great praise they fly up. At night the bats can sweep down and catch them.

Steve Roe:

I bet kids love messing around with cow pats!≈

Helen Parr:

The kids loved it. I don't know if the teachers were as keen though!

Steve Roe:

Should we have a wander down towards the roost then? Yeah, sure. So Helen, just as we're walking down this nice green lane, so we've got nice typical Devon hedgerows either side with a nice bit of stone wall underneath. And then trees growing out of the top of it a nice sort of overhead canopy like almost creating a tunnel in these autumn leaves. How has COVID-19 effected the project this year?

Helen Parr:

Oh, yeah. So it has affected us quite a bit. Because we haven't been able to do a lot of our face to face events or going into schools or visiting farmers initially, the some of that farm visit has been able to restart, you know, obviously, where things are outside or someone's just visiting a farm and having a wander around. That's fine. But what we've done each September, we've had a bat festival with lots of events. And what we did this year was we switched to doing some online events. So lots of chats about bats through calling it about different things like there was someone talking about moths because that's a good price and integratable shoe bass and some of the community people that have been involved in community projects have talked about what they've been doing. So that's just been a nice Nice way of reaching more people, in fact, as well, who perhaps can't always get out to events outside or further away from their homes, so they've been able to join us online for to do some activities, we've done some training online as well. So that's been quite a good replacement. Obviously, it's not the same as being out and about seeing people. But hopefully, people will get back to that. Next year, unfortunately, our project will be finished by them, but because of all the work with the communities, and we've accredited five, community as back friendly communities, because of all the great stuff they've done, and we're really confident now that they can just carry on the messages out there. And that's the whole idea of having community engagement on a project like this is that if you just spend five years doing really great work, it's no good if that work doesn't carry on, especially for something like grip populations, greater horseshoe bats, because it's a very much a long term project to to keep, keep the good work going so that the bats future is secure.

Steve Roe:

So when's the project due to finish then?

Helen Parr:

So it will be finishing at the end of this year, which is a shame for us on the project, we've got a really good project team. But we you know, we feel that we've got that message out there and achieved everything we set out to do, which is really good. And because it's a big partnership project, there are 18 partners on the project and Devon Wildlife Trust, who's hosting our team is the lead partner on the project. But there are the other partners. So in Devon, there are all of the area of outstanding natural beauty teams as for for different teams around the county, as Devon back group, and then nationally, so partners like the Bat Conservation Trust, and other partners can't, I won't name them all. But they have all that information also now and making hopefully carrot continue with the work. And we've tried to get the message out there to plumbers as well. So at a higher level to Devon County Council's one of our partners, and to just try to influence what's happening at this, at that higher level of planning, planning applications and taking into counts What greater horseshoes might need, or whether they're around.

Steve Roe:

So Helen, we've come out of the end of this, this green walkway and through a gate and into what's quite a public area, we can see people looking down a grille down into an old line kiln. Wherever abouts the roost from here then.

Helen Parr:

Yes, well, here we're standing looking down into a small quarried area. And so something else I should have mentioned when we're talking about why is Devon, good for bats is there are just so many cave systems around. So these limestone caves, especially in South Devon, are really great hibernation or roosting spots with the bats. And so the ones here are a really enormous underground network of caves. It's really popular with cavers. And there's an archaeologists have come here for sort of over 100 years, I think. So these what we're looking at now can sort of look down through the trees and just see under the under the rocks and and that leads into some the cave systems. So this is a really good winter hibernating and hibernation spot for the greater horseshoes. And then from here, they they move out into summer roost nearby, which will go and have a look at it later. But that in here, there was a sinkhole. And they found bones of animals here such as hyena and bison, and elephants are who all which all live here in the area in the last interglacial period about 125,000 years ago. So it's a really interesting site. And there's a small museum here, which is not open to the public, but it can be open for visits and in normal times, and groups of cavers or students can come and actually stay here if they're coming to do some studying here. So yes, that's a really important site.

Steve Roe:

And you said this is northern Europe's largest known greater horseshoe roost. Why is it here in Devon?

Helen Parr:

Well, I think in this particular area, it's it's largely to do with these this cave systems. So you've got the good habitats around, and you've also got these caves, so they've always had somewhere really good to roost and obviously, more in more recent decades, bats have moved into barns, but they didn't have the use of those hundreds and hundreds of years ago, so they would have done had winter and summer roosting in different parts of the cave system. But I mean, it's absolutely extent this really extensive under the ground here. So we probably only know the sort of tip of the iceberg really on the on winter hibernation spots, because we're focused on our project on the 11 maternity roosts across Devon. So we don't know so much about the winter roosts, we know a few key winter roosts, but certainly I wouldn't. I wouldn't think all of them.

Steve Roe:

And is there any evidence for long distance movement from summer sites to the winter hibernation sites?

Helen Parr:

There's no evidence of international migration of greater horseshoes. Although apparently one popped up in Ireland. I don't know how it got there. But they can, greater horseshoes can fly quite a long distance to other roosting sites, particularly the males, but they prefer to stay local if they can, and if the habitats or rights are so I guess we're by improving habitats around existing roofs, we're hoping that the bats don't need to travel as far and particularly the lactating females in throughout the summer, do the further they have to go to catch their prey, then is not going to be so good for the for the juveniles, juvenile bats, but on the pups because they won't get as much food perhaps or they won't have the care of the mother around them as much if they have to be away for longer periods of time.

Steve Roe:

And obviously, Devon's a very coastal county haven't used the sea caves along the coastline been studied as part of the project. So So

Helen Parr:

one of the maternity roosts is actually at Berry Head, which is a national nature reserve near brixon. It although it's not a natural cave, it's it's part of a quarry, but it is right by the sea. And then, so two sort of two sides of it are surrounded by sea. And the other third sort of side is is Brixon, which is quite built up. And so they have sort of very limited space that they can come out of the restaurant and forage and only they tend to sort of go along the coast path. And so there's been some survey work done on how the routes that they're following because the rates are so limited for the back there. And I don't think we've done so much on this sort of shoreline activity. I think most people that have taken part in our Devon bat survey project have been in-land right on the coast. But there has been some detectors along the beaches in North Devon near some of the known roofs up there. And they've been about 10 recordings of greater horseshoes along these coastlines, and there's probably a lot more, but I did hear that. There are some beach huts on the near one of our other project areas, which is near Beer in East Devon. And there's some beach huts along the beach. And apparently, someone did find some greater horseshoe droppings in one of the beach is obviously a very discerning bat that took up residence there for a while.

Steve Roe:

And apart from all the community engagement work in terms of stuff you've done with schools and the community, the community garden side of things you mentioned earlier, you've been putting out these remote recording bat detectors. How did that booking system work? And how many detectors have been deployed over the last five years? Yeah,

Helen Parr:

so we were really lucky because Stuart Newson who works at the British Trust for Ornithology had, also has a great interest, in fact, had already set up a sim and ran a similar survey in Norfolk. And so we got in touch with Stuart, and he kindly set up a similar system booking system for our own Devon bat survey. And we followed a similar methodology. So what happens is between April and September each year, we've had 20 SM4 detectors available for people to borrow for three nights each. So four day booking for three nights to put out where they like but mainly people have put that in their gardens or on their land on someone's land, they must know the landowner to do it. And each year up to about 750 people have been able to take part in that across the whole of that April to September period. So just a few recordings, just a few recordings since doing it in 2016. So over 2500 separate surveys have been carried out. And it has just been a brilliant way of engaging people in the project. People absolutely love it. Because after we analyse the data and produce reports, they receive a report detailing the different species of bats that they've picked up a number of passes as well and a bit more information about the bats and we found lots of locations. For other where other bat species have maybe not been picked up so much before, and now we've got all these records, and all these records are going to be passed to the Devon biodiversity record centre. So there'll be all this information that if people want to use it for future work that that's fine. And then, about a third of all of the locations surveyed, have had great horseshoe bats present, which is fantastic. But partly that's because it's been concentrated perhaps in the areas where we've been raising awareness where we already know that they're there. But it's also picked up some potential other reuse and and we're now people are looking at some radio tracking in some areas to see if we actually have some other maternity roosts around the county. And also the greater horseshoe bats are very sensitive to light. And so some of the places they've been picked up in cities such as Exeter and Plymouth, been in darker bits of Parkland and the round back gardens, which it just shows how important even these small areas are, particularly if they're not brightly lit spaces.

Steve Roe:

And the third of the sites that had horseshoes recorded how does that compare with what you thought you knew? Were you expecting to find horseshoes on on all those locations? or have there been new locations?

Helen Parr:

Yes, definitely been, I think we didn't necessarily have any expectations Apart from knowing that we would probably find them around the maternity roost. In the Devon, most of our work has on the projects being focused around them within a sort of four kilometre radius from the maternity roost. However, for Devon bat survey, we run that across the whole county. So people have been able to select survey squares in other areas that we just didn't really have any data for. So in that respect has been really useful to pick up these numbers. And when we see a cluster of numbers that we we think, Oh, that's quite a lot for that area, it means that we can go in and or do or in the future, there can be more work done in these areas, and especially to look at linking the the areas of assessment zones and the areas around the maternity use with with another resource nearby, because they do travel these long distances. So in South Devon, for example, there are seven of the 11 maternity roosts, and some of them aren't that far from each other. So if more work can be done, linking those with sort of corridors, hedge management and planting and so on, then that and wildflower meadows, for example, that could then link all those together. Because if something happened to the roost here, there's such a large reuse would be it would have really dramatic consequences on the population of greater horseshoes in the UK, in fact, so the more we can improve the other reefs around about and link them together and improve connectivity in the landscape for bats, the best of the bats.

Steve Roe:

And that connection of those landscapes has that been what some of the farming elements of the project as well, has been all about?

Helen Parr:

Yeah, I think initially to raise awareness and to get farmers to think about what they could do on their land. But then mapping we've mapped all that work on on key GIS mapping system. And then we can look at where these things can link together and perhaps any future work could look at where are the gaps in between. And so you get a really great picture of what's happening in these key priority areas, but also how that could link with new roofs or new areas of interest.

Steve Roe:

And just before we head down to the actual roost site itself, the detector system, you said obviously there's been hundreds of people booking those out, how did that booking system work? And how did you manage to reach so many people in one go.

Helen Parr:

So that once the booking system was set up, we what we had was different, what we call monitoring centres where people could come and pick up the kit. So we made like a box, or we had a box for each of these 20 monitoring centres around the county, which had the detector the microphone had information, it had all instructions people need it had batteries and the battery charger. And these monitoring centres were things like garden centres and libraries. So they were either businesses, local businesses, or community facilities or town halls. And they really kindly offered us they were basically volunteering because they then had to do the work to hand out the equipment. And then people could fit on our we have a book an online booking system on our debit back project.org website where people could book request a square and then book a date of when they were going to do their survey and where they would pick it up from and then the Monitoring Centre would receive notification of that and then hand it to The person when they came, and then four days later they bring it back. So we literally couldn't have done it without the help of those 20 monitoring centres. So that's been great. And the way that we've promoted it is through the communities that we're working in, but also through some sort of media appearances and press releases and going on to sort of local TV news programmes, and that was so popular in one time that it crashed the booking system. Well, something must be going right.

Steve Roe:

Where should people go to want to find out more about the project,

Helen Parr:

devonbatproject.org. Although the project is coming to an end, we are maintaining that for at least five years, and I'm busy at the moment, uploading lots more information. So there's a there's a downloads page there of films that people can watch that project. So there'll be a set of management guides linked to the farm advice and work. There's educational resources that schools can use. And as I said, we'll be trying to get the bat buddy award for school online by the end of this year as well. There's a really good resource for anyone who's interested in bats, and particularly in the greater horseshoes in Devon.

Steve Roe:

So the project is not been a small undertaking. It's been a five year project. You've got a website that's ongoing for another five years after this, obviously said several staff Where's all the funding come from?

Helen Parr:

Yes, so our main funder was the National Lottery Heritage Fund. So that was a really big application, which was successful following the pilot year them. And then there are fundraisers that didn't Well, they've just worked really hard over the years to also provide much funding from other funders as well. Such as the Disney Conservation Fund, for example, he funded some of the bat detectors, and other funders and small trusts. So there's still been a lot of fundraising work to do in that respect.

Steve Roe:

So Helen, we've come down, away from the church and away from the limekilns into a more urban area, we can hear the dual carriageway quite close to as on the microphones now. What are we looking at here? Do you just want to describe the reserve that we're in now

Helen Parr:

we're in a reserve that's owned, actually owned by Vincent Wildlife Trust, which is one of the partners in the project. And we're standing, we're looking up to a very high sort of quarry cliff face art with some birds up on the some of the scrubby trees that are growing out of the limestone rocks here. And then in the bottom, around us are two large barns. And they're quite smart barns, because they've been done up nicely by Vincent Wildlife Trust. Because the bats were known to be using it as a maternity roost site. And as it's such a large, large numbers of bats here, they the barns have been refurbished, but the bats were already using this. And we can see a locked gates with bars on it ahead of us, which leads into the cage into the cage system there. And so that's where the bats go in the winter. And then in the summer, they're using these bands here, particularly the one on our right, which is where the females have, they're young in the summertime.

Steve Roe:

So it's ideal, really for us, isn't it? We've got the nice, the nice warm bonds for the summer. And then it's literally just 10/20 metres to the to the underground cave site.

Helen Parr:

Yeah, it seems perfect. And it's very sort of overgrown, there's lots of vegetation. So there'll be lots of lots of insects available here. Again, they can fly out from here, they can fly up, up through the Flyways across some of the cattle graze land near here, picking up dung beetles as they go. And they can head down the river darts, which is really nice countryside around there. Again, there'll be lots of insect prey for them

Steve Roe:

as the project and the Devon Wildlife Trust, they've been working quite closely with fence and wildlife just joined this project. Yeah,

Helen Parr:

definitely as one of the 18 partners on the project. We've we yeah, we've worked closely with them, because they also own one of the other maternity leave sites in Devon. And so we've worked in partnership. And what's exciting about here is we've actually put in some infrared cameras so we can, as well as the survey work we're doing we can actually find out even more about the bats, because we've got a camera right inside the roost. And so from about June to September, as soon as the pregnant females move in, we can actually start watching them and we run that as a live feed on our website. So that's been another really great way to engage people. Obviously it's infrared so the bats are being disturbed, then there's no light, but we're able to watch them and see what they're doing. And then we can actually spot when the first pups are born. Because as the females go out hunting, they'll they leave their pups, even on the first day that they're born. They're all sort of born around the same time of year. And I think, as I understand that, they're all born in the morning. And then in the evening, the females will go out hunting. And if you look closely, you could spot these tiny pups are clinging on to the walls of the barn, which has actually got quite a nice sort of mesh that's been put on it just to make it more comfortable for them.

Steve Roe:

And I've seen I mean, I've been on the website, like you say, sometime around June, July, when, when that video footage has been has been going. And it's a live stream that's really quite impressive, isn't it with the number of apps that you can see in there?

Helen Parr:

Yeah, there's literally hundreds. And they all they cluster together and these enormous groupings to say that they keep really warm, says they're right at the highest point of the roof space. And that's because the, because bats are mammals like us, they the young needs to be born in nice, warm conditions. So it's not very comfortable for the female adult females, Billy, but that's the best thing for the pups. And that's why it's in that part of the barn. So they cluster together and then they start having their pups and then they stay there for for most of the summer, actually, as the pups get stronger, and then you can see them flapping their wings, the juvenile bats getting their muscles strong enough to take their first flights, and then you start seeing them flying around in the roost. Then in September, they'll be leaving the roost as well as the mums to go out learning how to hunt for their prey and finding things like small dung beetles, and crane flies and things that are really good for young bats and September. And then eventually, there's a point where they move out of view of the camera because they don't need to be in such a warm space anymore.

Steve Roe:

And just before we get absolutely drenched here is having to just about to open. Why do you think the product has been so popular?

Helen Parr:

Oh, I just think people just seem to really love sort of learning about bats is something that they didn't know about. They probably didn't know bats love to be insects. And maybe people didn't realise if they just did a bit more in their garden or in fact less than their garden to make it better for wildlife. So leave it more wild plant lots of pollinator friendly plants, so that attract moths at nights and other insects, then they can actually help provide food for these endangered bats and hopefully help in this sort of challenge of securing a future for them really. And what's also been great is just the support that's come from farmers and landowners who genuinely want to do what they can as well to help with conservation on their farm. And the other really important thing about this project is, although it's about one single species, actually anything you do for greater horseshoes, because there's such a fabulous indicator of a really healthy landscape with good habitats. If you do something for them, you're going to be helping other bat species, you're going to be helping insect populations which as we know you know they're in such decline anything you can do to help insects so is a good thing. And others wildlife such as small mammals and all the other wildlife which uses these these bat friendly habitats.

Steve Roe:

Helen Parr from the Devon greater horseshoe bat project, thank you very much.

Helen Parr:

Thank you.

Steve Roe:

And find out more about the project all the links you need in the show notes of this episode. Thanks for listening. We'd love it. If you can share our podcasts with your friends or on social media to help other people find the show. We'll be back in two weeks time with Sue swift author of the definitive work on longer bats. So join us then.