Wednesday 22 February 2012

Rare bats discovered in Cheshire for first time in half a century

Found during routine check
February 2012: The discovery of a lesser horseshoe bats in Cheshire for the first time in more than half a century has been described as ‘extremely exciting' by the county's Wildlife Trust.
The bats were found during a routine ‘hibernation check' by volunteers from the Cheshire Bat Group at English Heritage's Beeston Castle.
The species was last recorded in the Cheshire region at the same site in 1948. The bat gets its name from its horseshoe-shaped nose.
Casualties of Sixties Silent SpringLike several species, including birds of prey such as the peregrine falcon, lesser horseshoe bats have suffered through the inappropriate use of certain pesticides, which culminated in the ground-breaking study Silent Spring in the early 1960s.
Fragmentation of their favoured habitats and the use of timber treatments in their preferred roosting areas also led to a reduction in numbers.
Today, lesser horseshoe bats are restricted to Wales, the West Midlands and the South West. The most recent record from the North West was from East Lancashire, where lesser horseshoe bats were discovered in 2009.
Geed Ryan, of Cheshire Bat Group, said: ‘We have always known that lesser horseshoe bats were across the border in Wales and that this area of Cheshire has suitable habitat and feeding grounds for them - so we had hoped to find them one day.
Bats found hanging freely in caves‘Lesser horseshoe bats do not use boxes and these individuals were hanging freely in the caves, so although only the size of a plum, they were quite easy to spot.'
Fellow enthusiast Mike Freeman said the group would now carry out further monitoring to see where the bats are moving to and from. English Heritage have also confirmed the site at Beeston Castle will continue to be managed for the benefit of bats.
Sarah Bennett from Cheshire Wildlife Trust added: ‘It's often easy with familiar wildlife such as otters and birds to understand when numbers are in decline, but with a challenging group of species like bats it takes time and dedication to monitor their numbers.
‘We're thrilled that the Bat Group have made this discovery, and it also demonstrates the importance of maintaining high quality natural habitats throughout our countryside, as we may not always know when wildlife is slowly making a recovery behind the scenes.'
Mrs Bennett added: ‘It's especially heartening in the trust's 50th anniversary year to hear that species are continually making a comeback, despite the challenges that have been thrown at our wildlife during the past 50 years.'
All bats are protected by law, and anyone inspecting areas for bat activity or handling bats must hold an official licence.

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