How to organise a Big Bat Count

As part of the Great Somerset Wildlife Count, the bat group can help people to find and count the bats of their local area with an innovative community mapping project.

So if you are a adult community group (wildlife, gardening, church, conservation ..etc), or just a group of friends or neighbours, in Somerset who would like help to do a Big Bat Count on your patch then please do get in touch – somersetbatgroup@gmail.com

We can then reserve a provisional date for your bat count, which will enable you to recruit your teams.

How many people do we need?

Between 6 to 60 adults.

The bat count works best with small teams, who know each other, each hunting for bats in a defined area. Three 3 adults per team are ideal, but the count works well with between 2 to 6 adults per team. Children over 5 are welcome if each is accompanied by an adult. The Bat Group have ten sets of kit, so a successful bat count can be run with between 3 teams of 2, right up to 10 teams of 6 adults.

When should we do our Big Bat Count?

Bats hibernate overwinter, hence even in April, on a cold night they may not come out. Hence the best times for a count are:

  • First three weeks of May – sunset varies from 8:30 to 9:00PM
  • August through to mid September – sunset varies from 9:00 back to 7:30PM

It is very possible to do a count in June or July, however sunset can be very late from 9:00 to 9:30PM, which can make it a very late night.

It is worth noting that Big Bat Counts are weather dependent and may have to be postponed in case of rain, strong wind, or temperature below 6°C.

How does it work?

A bat group member will bring the kit along at the start of the count, and give a quick briefing to the teams.

Teams of people cover different parts of a local area, with bat detectors that allow them to, listen to, and automatically identify the species of bat making their echolocation calls.

The teams record their bat observations on their phones using the online Somerset Big Bat Count project in the iNaturalist app. The count lasts for 90minutes after sunset.


As the count organiser, what preparation do I need to do?

To run a successful Big Bat Count there are several areas of preparation for you to cover:

1/ Recruit your teams!

This might be within your community group, or perhaps by posting to a local area FaceBook group. There of lots of ways, but the key is to have a list of groups of people who want to help.

2/ Make arrangements for the count night

Organise a central place to meet, ideally under cover and near parking, and from where the kit can be handed out and collected. A well-lit place for the briefing and debrief is useful.

3/ Define your teams survey areas

You know your local area! Where will your teams be looking? Define areas for each team that are easy to walk around in an hour. This could be as simple as marker pen circles on a map. So long as every team has an area, and knows where to go, that is fine.

Please also have a copy of a map showing all the survey areas, and their number (see paperwork section below). email a copy of this master map to the bat group leader before the count, or have a paper copy ready to hand over at the start of the count night.

4/ Prepare your teams

Before the count you need to ask your teams:

  1. At least one adult (hopefully more) from each team should install the iNaturalist app on their internet-enabled phone, and create an iNaturalist account.
  2. Ask them to search for the “Somerset Big Bat Count” project in iNaturalist, and join that project. You may want them to also join your local iNaturalist project.
  3. Remind your teams to send you their iNaturalist ID. This enables echolocation recordings and iNaturalist observations to be matched up.
  4. Let your teams know which area they will be counting in, or let them choose an area.
  5. Make sure everyone is aware that Big Bat Counts are weather dependent and may have to be postponed in case of rain, strong wind, or temperature below 6°C.

Full details of the above pre-event actions are on our “How to take part in a Big Bat Count” page. Please ensure all teams have seen this before the event.

You can either send out a link to our website:

Or we have prepared printable PDF versions of the two key sections that you can download and send out over email:

5/ Safety Aspects

Familiarise yourself and your teams with the safety aspects of the Big Bat Count, including the SBG Risk Assessment for Big Bat Counts and standard safety briefing.

Ensure your local policing team are aware of the count in advance, this can be done online.

Please make sure all participants have seen the safety briefing.

You can either send out a link to our website:

Or we have prepared printable PDF versions of the safety briefing that includes standard SBG information that you can download and send out over email:

Or we have an editable (Word format) version that you can amend to include tany local contact numbers and any Police reference number you have obtained.

6/ Paperwork

Prepare a sign-up document that has the following information: (download a template to use here)

  • A number for each team, from 1 to 10 (this will be their kit ID number on the night)
  • First names of team members
  • iNaturalist login ID that the team will be using to make their observations in iNaturalist
  • A name for their survey area. It can be as simple as “north of village” or ” along the footpath to XYZ“. A meaningful name that can be looked up quickly on the map of all survey areas is best.

Please email a copy of the sign-up document the bat group leader before the count, or have a paper copy ready to hand over at the start of the count night

7/ Communications

It helps with both pre-event communications, and on the night, if you sign everyone up to a WhatsApp/Facebook group for use on the night’s count. An email group/list could also be used. This can also help in case you need the cancel the event at short notice due to weather, or other unforeseen circumstances.


Anything else?

That’s it really. With the preparations in place hopefully, the count should run itself on the night.

A bat group member will bring the equipment to the count, and help with the briefing of the teams. Then later in the night, everyone can see all the results in real-time on the iNaturalist map.

Big Bat Count

Thanks!

SERC logo

The Somerset Bat Group is grateful to the Somerset Environmental Records Centre (SERC) for funding the new equipment used in the Big Bat Counts.