Bats in the thatch at Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Hickling reserve

Norfolk Wildlife Services have been asked to survey bats in the thatched wardens house at the NWT Hickling, Norfolk, and offer advice on their protection.

At Hickling, Stewart has undertaken an assessment of the bat roost within the warden’s house, which requires rethatching.  The bat colony has been known about for several years, with bats flitting around the eaves on summer evenings catching midges and mosquitoes swarms from the adjacent wetlands.  As such the Hickling warden John Blackburn was keen that the thatching work didn’t accidentally block entrances or affect the bats, and so called on Norfolk Wildlife Services to offer specialist advice well in advance.

John Blackburn, the warden, joked : “People talk about taking work home with them, but in this case a bit of the nature reserve seems to have moved into my house.  It’s easy to forget that there is a whole night shift at Hickling, that starts up when the reserve closes.  Nocturnal creatures such as bats are as integral a part of the ecology of Hickling as it’s bitterns.”

Bats will not normally roost in thatch, since the reed can very easily pierce or snag their membranous wings, and in rural Norfolk areas typically use Dutch pan tile roofs, which have abundant snug gaps.  At Hickling, based on droppings found, the bats are suspected to roost within a cavity wall in the loft, perhaps sardined into the inside of a breezeblock, where they are not visible in the daytime.

In order to find the roost location and count the number of bats using the roost, nocturnal surveys will observe both their emergence and then around dawn their carousel display as they settle to roost.

Stewart, an ecologist at Norfolk Wildlife Services said:

“We will use specialist bat detectors, which many people will be familiar with, that reduce ultrasonic bat echolocation calls to an audible frequency. The echolocation calls will be recorded digitally, allowing later analysis to confirm which species were present. We have a good idea where bats are emerging from as droppings are regularly found beneath a hole around the roof rafters, but will be relying on good vision to confirm this and any other potential roost sites within the building. The most likely species we will find are soprano pipistrelles, but we know there are also two other pipistrelles at Hickling as well as Natterer’s and Daubenton’s bats, so it should be quite exciting.”

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