End of year bumper update – 23rd Dec 2021

We would like to wish all members of the group a superb festive season and a very batty new year. It is a bumper message this time, which includes:

  • The latest bat group Bulletin from the BCT: 22nd December 2021 – #197
  • Consultation on Handling of Bat Care Related Calls
  • A Call to Action for the Bat Group Appeal
  • An update from the Bats in Churches project
  • An update on the database of bat ring numbers
  • An apology. Due to email problems, some members did not receive our November update If you missed out (sorry!) you can view the message here: https://somersetbat.group/2021/11/30/update-30nov21/
  • BCTs Christmas card to us all

We have been asked to supply one consolidated response from the bat group to the BCT on this. Bat Carers are been asked to comment separately, so if any group members who are not careers would like to provide comments then please send these to our usual email address (somersetbatgroup@gmail.com) by Friday 7th Jan 2021. Thank you!

If you would like to see the consultation questions then click here for a word version:

Details of the consultation are as below:

“We have launched our consultation on the handling of bat care related calls. This is open to bat groups and to members of the BCT UK Bat Care Network.

Please see the BCT website for all of the relevant information, including links for the consultation: https://www.bats.org.uk/resources/consultation-on-handling-of-bat-care-calls.

The consultation is to get your thoughts on the alternatives to BCT staff dealing directly with bat care related enquiries. These changes are necessary because of a significant funding gap for the Helpline, even with the generous contributions of BCT’s supporters (including bat groups). We need to ensure that the service we provide is sustainable in the long term.

As you know we have been trialling a Volunteer Bat Care Helpline (VBCH) this year. Bat care calls are being taken by volunteers, with back-up support from BCT staff. The Helpline team are continuing to support members of the UK Bat Care Network and BCT still works to promote bat care best practice. This approach is just one option, and we want to consult with you on this and the other potential approaches to handling bat care related enquiries in the future. The alternatives can be broadly grouped into four approaches:

  1. Volunteer call handlers covering both out of hours and in office hours, supported by BCT staff (as we are trialling with the VBCH)
  2. Regional/bat group helplines take bat care calls instead of the BCT Helpline.
  3. Carers are advised of bat finders in their area and given their contact details via an online system.
  4. Carer contact numbers are made available direct to the bat finders via an online system.

The questionnaire is structured around these approaches but please note the questions on options 3. and 4. are for members of the Bat Care Network only (bat groups will be able to see the summary information about what is being proposed).

We are asking for a single response per bat group.

The deadline for submissions is 9am on Monday 9th January. We wanted to give bat groups and Bat Care Network Members plenty of time to respond so we can get as many submissions as possible.”

CALL TO ACTION: Bat Group Appeal

Kit Stoner, Chief Executive of the Bat Conservation Trust wrote:

“I’d like to start with a heartfelt thank you to all the members of Somerset Bat Group, past and present. My thanks are not just for the support over the last 12 months but for everything bat groups have done for bat conservation, including of course the creation of the Bat Conservation Trust 30 years ago. I hope some of you had the opportunity to join in with the various online events we organised in September as part of BatFest. I was pleased to welcome many members of bat groups to the National Bat Conference in October. I do miss the real-world social aspect of the conference so hopefully I will be able to see at least some of you in person in 2022.

Like many others, my journey into bat conservation was helped by bat group members. It started when I took an online distance learning course on mammal ecology with the University of Exeter in 2001 where the tutor was from the Devon Bat Group. The field trip hooked me on bats, so I joined the Cambridgeshire Bat Group soon after, and was able to join more activities. And shortly after that I was lucky enough to join the BCT staff. The rest, as they say, is history. Bat groups remain at the heart of bat conservation in the UK and although I am not as actively engaged with my group as I was in the past, the crucial role that bat groups play is at the forefront of my mind. Every success we have had has been thanks to the close relationship between BCT and bat groups.

The history of bat groups precedes the creation of the national charity; many bat groups formed in the wake of the first piece of legislation offering protection to bats, namely the Wildlife and Countryside Act which had its 40th anniversary this year. It was clear that bat conservation could not rely on legal protection alone. There was a need for the public to be reassured, educated, and inspired alongside more bat conservation research and dissemination of findings. It was from this desire that BCT was formed. Fast forward three decades and we now have over 80 bat groups across the UK that we work closely with.

Last year the bat group appeal helped to raise over £20,000 towards the National Bat Helpline with a further £10,000 for the Out of Hours Service via a public Crowdfunding appeal. We also made further adaptations to the way Helpline works to make it more financially sustainable, this included training more volunteers to provide advice to callers who had found grounded, injured, or orphaned bats.

We are reaching out to you again this year in the hope that you can donate towards BCT’s bat group support activities. While we have managed to secure some funds towards this aspect of our work, there is still a significant shortfall of £27,000. Securing these funds will help us continue to support bat groups, old and new. This vital link will become ever more essential over the coming months and years as we face uncertainty around changes in government policy and legislation impacting on bat conservation. Your donation will help us to support bat groups across the whole of the British Islands. It will enable us to continue to provide targeted training and timely advice, to run the popular regional conferences and the annual Bat Workers Forum, as well as develop new ways of knowledge sharing (like the bat group mingles), to celebrate achievements with the Pete Guest Award and the new Batty Awards for Achievement and Talent. Your support will ensure we can continue to provide resources for bat groups, including the monthly bulletins, guidance (including on bat group development, fundraising, small charities, safeguarding, disease risk management, and a variety of other topics), policy and conservation sector updates, and the all-important public liability insurance; all enabling bat groups to spend their time and resources where it really matters, in front-line bat conversation.

The link between BCT, as the national voice for bat conservation, and bat groups, who undertake vital front-line conservation work, is special. It is one of the reasons we are all part of one of the very few conservation successes in the UK. Our work is far from done though. While the populations of some bat species are showing initial signs of improvement, they have not yet recovered from historical declines. Other bat species remain threatened, with four of the 11 mammal species native to Britain classified as being at imminent risk of extinction being bats, according to the official IUCN Red List for British Mammals.

We are entering a new era in bat conservation. The new Environment Act and the Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) came into being in November. The Act is an opportunity that could benefit bat conservation, but it depends on how it’s applied. The OEP is the new public body in charge of protecting and improving the environment by holding government and other public authorities to account, we will be keeping a close eye too. The partnership between bat groups and BCT has achieved much together over the last three decades and will be vital going forward. Your support will enable us to help existing and new bat groups so that we can continue to further bat conservation.

The partnership between bat groups and BCT has achieved much together over the last three decades and will be vital going forward. Your support will enable us to help existing and new bat groups so that we can continue to further bat conservation.

In just a few weeks a new year will begin and we can start counting down to the bats emerging from hibernation once more. I want to wish you a very happy Christmas and may 2022 be a good year for you and all of bat conservation.”

Update from Bats in Churches

Rose Riddell, Engagement Officer for the Bats in Churches Project wrote:

“Monitoring is continuing at Holcombe Old Church, with the lesser horseshoes now using the enhanced tower and nave roof areas that have been opened up for them. In 2022 we are collaborating with an artist to create a community art project showcasing the bats and heritage at Holcombe Old Church. If any bat group members would like to be involved with this, please do get in contact.

As well as carrying out bat surveys and mitigation work in some of our project churches, we have been supporting churches in other ways by providing cleaning guidance, advice via email and zoom, webinars, and a variety of online events, training and workshops. These have proved popular with both churches and bat groups. You can register for these, and find out more, via the Events section on our website https://batsinchurches.org.uk/get-involved/events/ where you can also watch our BiC LIVE series, virtual bat nights, and our most recent webinar Bats in Sacred Spaces.

This year we were able to restart our volunteer surveys – the National Bats in Churches Study and Church Bat Detectives. Of the 326 churches surveyed so far, 78% have evidence of bats. This is considerably higher than the old estimate of 60% from the 1990s and shows how important churches are for bats. Next year will be the last for our surveys and we would really appreciate an all out effort by bat groups to survey as many churches as possible. A big thank you to everyone who has volunteered so far.

We are hoping to run some training workshops for VBRVs and trainee VBRVs on working with churches with bats next year. My colleague Claire Boothby will be sending out more details about these in the new year.

May I take this opportunity to wish you and everyone in Somerset Bat Group a peaceful Christmas and a safe and healthy 2022.”

Ringing the Changes Project Update

Lisa Worledge wrote:

“After many false starts, we are finally up and running with the Ringing the Changes project to implement a centralised database of ringed bats and produce updated ringing guidelines.

All of the funding for this work has come from your donations and pledges. It would not have been possible to move the project forward without your generosity (Ed – including a large donation for Somerset BG). My sincerest thanks and appreciation for your support. The donations for the Ringing the Changes project received over the last few years have all been ring-fenced. We may need to do further fundraising but, if necessary, that won’t be until the 2022/23 financial year.

The project naturally splits into two workstreams:

  1. Ringing database – covering both ring sales and essential data about each bat subsequently ringed (essential data as agreed at the National Bat Ringing Workshop in February 2015 and the associated questionnaire), the facility to add additional optional information, the functionality for bulk uploads and to add historic data. There will be a data sharing agreement between BCT and ringers to ensure appropriate levels of confidentiality of data. An invitation to tender for the database and web front end will be issued in the New Year. Development timescales will depend on the successful proposal, but we will take into account the busy summer season as we plan the user testing.
  2. Ringing guidelines – updating and expanding on information in the Bat Workers Manual (content of the guidelines as agreed at the National Bat Ringing Workshop in February 2015 and the associated questionnaire), and put together by an expert editorial panel, the new guidelines will be published as an online PDF and relevant across the UK. The aim is to produce the guidelines in parallel with the database development.

Allowing for contingency, both workstreams will be completed by the end of 2022. My plan is to send regular updates on progress about the project. The frequency of updates will be variable, depending on progress and news to share. I envisage the first of these being sent out when we issue the database invitation to tender in a month or two’s time. If you don’t want to be kept up to date, then please let me know and I will remove you from the project emailing list (you are on the list currently because you have donated to the project, either personally or on behalf of your bat group and in some cases both! You may also have received a very similar email from me this afternoon if you have purchased bat rings from BCT).

Thank you again for all of your support and for your patience as we finally get this project up and running!

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. I wish you a very happy Christmas and let’s hope 2022 is a suitably batty year for us all!”

BCT Christmas Card 2021
BCT Christmas Card 2021

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