Batting in Scotland

Written by: Robert Bender

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Anne Youngman (left) and Carolyn

During a 23-day holiday touring around Scotland, my wife and I visited Dunblane for two days, and stayed with Anne Youngman, of the Bat Conservation Trust http://www.bats.org.uk/, hoping to learn about what volunteers and organisations do to study and protect bats there.

The Trust is a charity and has 35 employees, Anne being the only one in Scotland. The Trust’s work includes

  • Running a helpline (with help from volunteers)
  • Monitoring bats (via the National Bat Monitoring program
  • Involvement in scientific research
  • Landscape protection for bats
  • Giving advice on buildings, planning and develop-ment (e.g. by publishing survey Guidelines) though not on individual cases
  • Lobbying
  • Working in partnership with others
  • Developing and delivering training to a range of audiences, from architects to pest controllers

BCT produces a range of website and hard copy resources, e.g. booklets and leaflets about bats (rather like our Bat Facts Pack) give many talks to educate schools and community groups, recruit more volunteers to replace dropouts to keep the survey work going. It has a budget of around £1,000,000 p.a., obtained from several quango organisations: Scottish Natural Heritage http://www.snh.gov.uk/, (a statutory nature conservation org that advises government on policy issues), Environment Waleshttp://www.environment-wales.org/ and Natural England https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/natural-england

There is a wide range of programs and resources on the Trust website

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Anne and Carolyn in the nave

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Bat carving on one misericord – a little shelf so choristers who had to stand for lengthy periods could lean against them to reduce the strain.

 

Anne had very generously planned a little itinerary, starting with a visit to the nearby magnificent Dunblane Cathedral, a mix of 11th and 15th century styles, with wonderfully various carvings on the choir seats, including a 15th century effort to depict a bat.

We progressed to visit the local Leighton library, established by the local archbishop in the 1780s to hold his collection, so it is all leather-bound books over 200 years old. Among their collection is a full set of the 14-volume Histoire Naturelle of Comte de Buffon (1707 – 1788), one volume of which, publish-ed in 1760, has detailed descriptions, measurements and illustrations of a dozen bat species.

The librarian was most generous in keeping the library open past the usual closing time to accommodate us and tell us about the collection.

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Anne had asked me to give a talk to a local bat group, with 30 people promising to attend, but that night the weather was cold, windy and wet, so only four turned up.

Lindy had given me two copies of the latest 3 ABS newsletters to distribute and I took a copy of Churchill’s Australian Bats – everyone took some-thing home to read about what we do here.
By the end of my presentation, the rain had eased to light drizzle, so four of us went for a walk down to the river, Allan Water, where an old stone bridge crosses it, with several bat detectors, which picked up Daubenton’s, Common Pipistrelles and Soprano Pipistrelles.

What I learned from Anne seems to be that government commitment to conservation at many levels is taken far more seriously in Scotland than here – in training people wanting to work as environmental consultants, ensuring there is adequate data on distribution patterns of all their bat species, public education, regulation of building restoration work to protect bat roosts, involvement of volunteers in government-funded survey work and support for a large cohort of paid employees to manage the large workload. As one indicator, at Linlithgow palace, a very damaged 15th century building restored in parts, we saw this notice in the ticket office

And as another, at Loch Leven, a small castle on an island in a small loch, this notice was displayed outside the ticket office, with a prominent photo of a Daubenton’s bat foraging. There were encouraging signs all over the country of a far greater conscious-ness of the natural world and the need to look after it, than I find in Australia, where it seems to be an awareness by a small minority of people.

A visit to the Birnam museum to see a display about Beatrix Potter had a section on her wildlife painting, including a couple of bats – she explored becoming a serious scientist, writing a paper on fungi, which she was not allowed to present to the local scientific society as they didn’t accept women, and refused her membership application.

The Bat Conservation Trust website has much fascinating information about their work and how they involve volunteers. They try hard to involve volunteers in an ongoing national survey, much as I found in Ireland a few years ago.

90 bat groups across the UK and around 10 active in Scotland, doing surveys, monitoring sets of boxes, doing public education.

And volunteers not only do surveys but also assist with the Bat Helpline, supplementing paid staff on evenings and weekends May to Sept. (summer)

Somewhat similar to our Bat Night, they participate in a Europe-wide weekend of activities: walks and talks among other things.

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About Pia Lentini

Pia Lentini is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the University of Melbourne's Quantitative and Applied Ecology group.
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