Working with bats on the Isles of Scilly

Bats were once common in Scilly but by the 1990’s they seem almost to have disappeared.  This is undoubtedly down to habitat loss; improvements to barns and buildings which they would have roosted in and food availability; limited by the use of insecticides on farms.  Due to changes in these practices, bats numbers appear to be recovering.  Did you know that bats hunt insects including mosquitoes and flies to satisfy their considerable nutritional requirements?  In order to survive, a bat must eat a third to a quarter of its body weight per night which can be 3,000 insects.

At the beginning of 2018 the Trust was informed that the Islands resident volunteer Bat Wardens would be stepping down from this role after 11 years at the helm.  This left a worrying gap in the provision of bat conservation in Scilly so we set about finding a viable solution which the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust could employ. 

Bat conservation is a complex business. With bat groups, bat consultants, volunteers and paid professionals, Natural England and the Bat Conservation Trust, and then the “Scilly-factor” of a remote community of 5 inhabited islands, it was quite tricky to come up with a workable plan. 

Two staff members have now undertaken professional Bat License training with Dr Sandie Sowler, who has been involved in bat research and conservation since 1969 and has 24 years experience as an ecological consultant in the UK focussing on bat conservation , EcIA’s and latterly developing training courses.  She has the full range of bat licenses with both Natural England and Natural Resources Wales and has developed and delivered Bat Conservation Trust training courses since 2003.  Sandie kindly came to Scilly in June to train the staff, as the cost of sending our team away to the mainland for the course, would have been prohibitive.  We are eternally grateful for Sandie’s enthusiasm and commitment to bat conservation in Scilly and for her help in finding a solution for Scilly which worked.

The Trust is now offering an ecological consultancy service for those needing information about the presence of bats or the possibilities of providing roost sites for bats within the planning system.  Homeowners/developers are often required by the Local Planning Authority to take into account bats when applying for planning permission; the Trust will now be able to provide this service on a not-for-profit basis.  We hope that this will enable developers/homeowners to do all they can to help our bat populations thrive. 

In Scilly 7 species of bat have been recorded. However only 3 are resident; Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), Soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus)and Brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus).  Other species such as Nathusius pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii) are migrant, but could be resident.  The Isles of Scilly hold the UK’s southernmost  population of Common pipistrelle however we currently don’t have sufficient data to know much more and so another purpose of this new venture is to gain more data on where bats are roosting, be that maternity, hibernation or transition roosts.  Ultimately, we hope that increased information about bats and their whereabouts and requirements in Scilly will enable the Trust to create more suitable bat habitat so that they can thrive as an integral part of the islands ecosystem.

The Isles of Scilly Bat Group pages can be found here