The bat monitoring station is a multi-partnership example of how working together can bring about benefits to people and to wildlife. The Northern Ireland Bat Group is a dedicated group of volunteers who help rescue, rehabilitate and record bats across Northern Ireland. Bay Road Park Steering Group is made up of local residents with a passion for nature and looking after their green space.
Creggan Country Park provides access to environmental education and volunteering and has its own climate adaptation and mitigation projects in addition to this. Records will be shared with Bat Conservation Trust and will feed into the wider National Bat Monitoring Programme. Together we want to investigate the effects of climate change on local known bat populations.
Bats have a strict life cycle throughout the year and rely on the emergence of insects at the same time as the females give birth to their pup. This is to ensure she has enough to eat in order to produce milk. In winter, bats go into torpor during hibernation. To achieve this, they need cold weather. As we start seeing the effects of climate change from extreme heat during the summer months, and warm, wet winters leads to less hibernation; bat populations will decline.
This is bad news for us, as bats are important pest controllers. A single pipistrelle can eat over 3000 midges each night. In hotter countries, bats are crucial components of the ecosystem helping to pollinate fruits and flowers and regenerate rainforests. Bats are susceptible to the effects of climate change and present as an ideal indicator species for us to monitor.
People of all ages can get involved in the project and take part in the annual surveys during summer months. Not only will they learn new skills, learn about local natural heritage and history but they will also improve their health and wellbeing by being outdoors and reconnecting with nature. There is something very special about walking around ancient trees under the moonlight, it ignites a passion for nature and a new love of a local green space.
The heart of the project is partnership working and we would encourage anyone embarking on a similar project to connect with groups in their area, particularly those with expertise in the field of work you hope to study. It is only through a combination of partnerships that we can deliver the project as each partner has something different to bring to the table. Setting up a partnership agreement to identify roles within the project is a good first step.
The Northern Ireland Bat Group has a wealth of experience in bat surveys and equipment so they were put as lead partner along with Derry City and Strabane District Council as the site owner.
Bay Road Park LNR Steering group helped to secure funding for the equipment, volunteer PPE, volunteer certificates and refreshments so that there was extra incentive for volunteers to join.
Creggan Country Park took lead on volunteer recruitment through their existing volunteer partnerships, community links and social media and facilitated volunteer training.
Like all pilot projects, we encountered some problems mainly due to weather - many volunteer days organised could not go ahead as the weather wasn't ideal for bat surveys and then equipment maintenance and malfunction. Thankfully, because we had partnered the right organisation, the Northern Ireland Bat Group were able to fix equipment faults and get the project back on track.
- Number of volunteers helping with dusk activity surveys.
- Amount of funding secured.