Upcoming bat group events, Vote for Edward and Helen – 8Aug21

In this message we have:

  • Please vote for Edward and Helen Wells in the Pete Guest Award 2021
  • The latest Bat Group Bulletin, which includes an opportunity to present Somerset’s bats to the world!
  • Details of an exciting project looking at the swarming behaviour of Myotis bats in the Mendips.
  • News of some bat group events restarting, including public walks at Wells Moat and Glastonbury Museum. But unfortunately “bat contact” events are still on hold, pending updated guidance from BCT.

Please vote for Helen and Edward Wells!

To celebrate and recognise the immense contribution that Helen and Edward Wells have made to bat conservation in Somerset over many, many years we have nominated them for the Pete Guest Award 2021.

Who wins the award is decided by public vote, and hence we would encourage everyone to vote for Edward and Helen, to say thank you for all their dedication, innovation, enthusiasm and inspiration over the past 35 years.

You can vote for Helen and Edward via this Online form. Voting will close at 9am on 27th August 2021.

Click here to see more details including; the supporting statements written by Dave Cottle, and Edward and Helen’s response to their nomination.

Bat Group Bulletin – Virtual bat walks

The latest bat Group bulletin from the BCT includes a request to take part in the Virtual Bat Walk for BatFest. The BCT will be celebrating their 30th birthday with a series of events starting on International Bat Night (28th August).

Last year Dave and Adel were the stars of the show with the live filming from several locations around Bishops Palace Moat.

So how fancies flying the flag for Somerset this year? The actual process was easy, just needing a mobile phone and connection to film. So email us if you are up for it, and have an idea.

Link to the full bulletin: 29th July 2021 – #192 (sorry for the delay we were waiting for BCTs updated guidance)

Mendips Bat Swarming Project

Group member Lewis Hillier is organising a 2021 survey using recording devices at the entrances of Mendip caves, with the hope of tracking swarming behavior of myotis species.

In a post on the SBG facebook page Lewis said:

“Come and take part in the Mendips Swarming Project! We all know its been a tough time in terms of volunteering and getting hands on experience with bats, and it doesn’t look like that is about to change anytime soon. So I’ve been organising a project with Somerset Bat Group to gather some baseline acoustic data on underground sites throughout the Mendips, and I need your help. You dont need any experience, you just need to available for the key dates listed below and capable/willing to wander through woodland and go off the beaten trail! If you think you might be interested, read on and come to the Zoom session 🙂

The Mendips are littered underground sites and have been well studied for the presence of horseshoe bats. However, it’s much more difficult to survey for myotis bats because they tend to roost out of sight in crevices. There is seemingly very little data on swarming myotis at these sites, and therefore we dont know which sites are important for myotis. The plan is to deploy audiomoths at the entrances of underground sites to record acoustic data so we can compare the activity levels across all of these sites.

I’m looking for volunteers to help with the deployment/collection, and as much of the data analysis as youd like to. I’m hoping that this data will inform a future trapping project where we can gather further data on species assemblage at the sites of interest.

On the 12th August 2021 at 6pm I will be doing a Zoom session to give a more detailed introduction about the project, talk about how to use the audiomoths and discuss how it will all work. This doesn’t mean you have to help, you can just listen in and see what its all about.

– On the 21st August we will deploy the Audiomoths for the first session.
– Then the 25th September we will deploy them again for the second session.

Collection of audiomoths can happen any time after 5 days of them being in the field.

If you’re interested, please email me – lewishillierecologist@gmail.com

Lewis Hillier

The bat group is pleased to be able to help Lewis with the loan of our 12 AudioMoth devices.

Upcoming Bat Group events

We have started to publish details of some upcoming bat walks and surveys on our website. It is nice to see the calendar filling back up again with old favorite public walks such as Dave’s Wells Moat Walk, and Adel in Frome and Glastonbury Museum.

However, we are still not able to organise “bat contact” events, like bat box checks or roost visits. We really hoped that updated guidance from the BCT for bat groups would be available by now. we asked BCT for an update on timescales and on 29th July the Bat Group Offficer replied:

“Unfortunately Lisa hasn’t be in work this week to write the piece, as we had hoped to get it in (Julys) bulletin. She has been involved with the both the IUCN and BCT guidance updates so is the one with the most knowledge on it. We really hope to be sending out a special bulletin as soon as possible (hopefully next week).  We know it is really wanted by the groups as others have also been in touch, so it is a top priority.”

Abby Packham

We had delayed this email hoping for this updated guidance, but sadly no news this week.

SBG pre-assessment of risk

While the SBG committee will await the national BCT bat group guidance, we have also performed our own pre-assessment below to help us prepare.

We understand the BCT guidance will be based on that of the IUCN. On 2nd July 2021 the IUCN SSC Bat Specialist group published their updated v2 Recommended Strategy to Reduce the Risk of Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from Humans to Bats.  This states that “there is a low but credible risk of human-to-bat transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and that this risk can be reduced using mitigation strategies, which now also include vaccination“. 

Their recommendations look to minimise this risk, using an Assess, Modify, Protect strategy. As part of “Assess”, factors that are considered include:

  1. Indicators of COVID-19 circulation rates in the population country (Infection rate/100,000, Positive test rate %, Hospitalization rate & Fatality rate)
  2. Proportion of Population Vaccinated
  3. How many members of the research team are fully vaccinated?
  4. How many of the support staff are fully vaccinated?

The Bat group committee have applied our own assessment of the above factors using the IUCN’s High/Medium/Low rankings, using the latest data for our region, as shown above.

This seems to us to meet the IUCN overall risk category of “Amber” currently – If 2 or less red – “RISK
that can be mitigated, proceed with caution”.

The modify strategies recommended under Amber risk category include:

  • Work to reduce contact with bats. Reducing the number of sites and individual bats involved in each study to the minimum needed for valid statistical inference. Ad hoc sampling of bats, capture of bats for teaching purposes etc., should be discouraged
  • Avoid starting new projects that require continuity of sampling.
  • Fully implement PROTECT measures – Avoid contact when possible: Handling time should be minimized, Wear a face covering, do not blow on bats, practice hand hygiene, use nitrile or latex gloves, change or disinfect gloves regularly, avoid touching your face, disinfect equipment.
  • Regularly ASSESS the epidemiological context and status of individual team members.
  • Conduct regular antigen tests to properly assess the epidemiological risk in your team, and follow up with PCR tests as needed.
  • Avoid social contact outside the research team in the week before fieldwork, and for the duration of fieldwork.
  • Prepare exit strategies, should the risk category change to RED.

The SBG committee will await the updated guidance from BCT before deciding anything.  If the BCT’s guidance does align with our assessments, then it seems likely that these modify strategies and in particular the first, mean that we should, unfortunately, continue to limit voluntary “bat contact” events, until we reach a green low risk (which is defined as green across all 4 factors above).

We will email all members again when we do get the updated BCT guidance for Bat groups.