A twilight world
Bat species known to breed and frequent Sheepdrove's fields and woodlands include Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, Noctule, Daubenton's Bat, Serotine, Brown Long-eared, and Natterer's Bat.
There is every chance that there might be more we don't know about yet!
We want to conserve our bat biodiversity and so we asked our local bat group to help us put up bat boxes, and give us advice on habitat creation and maintenance to support them. We also use their expertise to survey the farm's bat population so we can learn about them. Of course one of the important benefits of organic farming is the proliferation of insects, and these are crucial prey for bats.
Scientific research by Bristol University has shown that organic farms are better for bats. Organic farms in the 2003 study tended to have more bat activity, linked to a higher abundance of key types of insect prey.
Supporting bats at SheepdroveSome of the best bat zones at the farm are combinations of habitats. Sheepdrove has pasture with organic livestock, hedges, rough grass along the byways and around our fields, woodland (especially with cracks and hollows in old trees), and water habitats. We linked these habitats together with more hedges, unmown grass margins and tree plantations.
We leave old hollow trees standing where we can, and only tidy up where necessary within woodlands. This provides opportunities to roost, breed and hibernate, and to aid our flying furry friends further, we have installed bat boxes all over the farm.
Amazing bat factsMost don't know much about these small mammals-and it's understandable- bats come out at night, they are nearly inaudible to the human ear and there are centuries of inaccurate myths about them.
- During the winter bats hibernate, with heartbeat slowed to 5-10 bpm and body temperature about 10 degrees Celsius (27 degrees lower than usual).
- Bats comprise 977 species worldwide. That's about 22% of all known types of mammal.
- 17 types of bat live in the British Isles.
- Most bats found in houses are Common Pipistrelle. Although they like old timber constructions, most roost in buildings less than 25 years old. They are perfectly safe companions.
- Bats use echolocation to find prey. That's why they need such big ears.
- Biologists classify bats as 'Chiroptera' which means 'hand wing'.
- Flying and shouting takes a vast amount of energy. British bats have to eat about half their bodyweight in insects every night to maintain their high-energy lifestyle!
- Bat calls are very loud (e.g. over 100 decibels for one 8000th of a second) but we cannot appreciate their ultrasound without the help of a bat detector, which converts the noises into something humans can hear.
Bats need helpJust like other wildlife such as birds and butterflies, bats have suffered from the changes to our countryside and the way it is managed. Chemical pollution has laced insects with unhealthy substances which can harm the bats who eat them.
Find more information why not join us on a bat walk or talk to your local bat group? where you can get box designs, educational resources, and details on habitat conservation.
To help bats and other wildlife, make your garden insect-friendly and organic, avoiding the use of pesticides, and of course buy more organic food to support bat-friendly farming practices!