Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bats about canals

British Waterways want you to take part in its annual Wildlife Survey and help to put creatures living in and along canals and rivers on the map. This year’s survey highlights bats,Britain’s only flying mammal, whose numbers have declined dramatically since the 1950s.
Brown Long Eared Bat:
Picture by the Hugh Clark/
Bat Conservation Trust©


Changes in farming practice have fragmented wildlife-rich areas, such old pasture, woodland, heritage parkland and reservoirs  and so canals and hedgerows play a vital part in Britain’s natural world by acting as 'green corridors'.  Sheltered passages through open farmland that allow bats and many other species to travel safely between feeding grounds.

These routes between habitats are especially important for our 17 species of native bat because they rely on the dark, insect-rich environment that canals provide at night, as well as ideal structures, such as bridges and aqueducts, to roost and breed in.

British Waterways’ national ecology manager, Dr Mark Robinson, said, "Intensive use of land for residential, commercial, transport or agricultural purposes has meant that vast areas of untouched habitat, rich in thousands of different species of plant and animal have been reduced in size and isolated from one another. The passage between these ‘islands’ has become an exhausting journey for the animals that have to cross them and makes them an easier target for predators
.
"For bats, canals are like a cross between the M1 and Tesco’s

"Our 200-year old bridges, aqueducts and tunnels provide ideal nooks and crannies for bats to roost in, while the high water quality and plant-rich channels ensure plenty of insects, which are bats only source of food.

“Modern buildings and landscaped parks tend to be highly maintained which, while great for us, is not so good for bats as they rely on undisturbed, safe places to roost, such as old tree trunks or the eaves of roofs. Canals offer the best of both worlds: welcoming millions of commuters and leisure seekers during the day, but remaining a refuge for these fascinating, yet mysterious and elusive mammals at night.”

To take part in the Wildlife Survey, or find out about guided bat walks or download a guide to waterways wildlife visit www.waterscape.com

Common Pipistrelle bat: picture by the Hugh Clark/Bat Conservation Trust©

To learn more about bats visit:  www.bats.org.uk 
or call the National Bat Helpline on 0845 1300 228 
The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) is the only national organisation solely devoted to the conservation of bats and their habitats in the UK. Its vision is a world where bats and people live in harmony. BCT runs the National Bat Helpline, providing advice on any bat-related issues — and it also keeps track of bat populations through the National Bat Monitoring Programme. BCT also runs training courses for professionals and volunteers to promote good practice. It is supported by more than 5,000 members. 

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