Coastal receiver station to monitor tiny rare bat

Rare Nathusiuss pipistrelle - two were recorded at Stockers Lake Nature Reserve (photo: Daniel Hargr

A rare Nathusius pipistrelle - Credit: Daniel Hargreaves

Special receivers are to be installed at a Suffolk coastal site as part of ongoing work in the county to monitor the migration of a tiny rare bat.

The Environment Agency has agreed to site the wildlife receiver station at Benacre Pumping Station to monitor Nathusius' pipistrelle bats, which can fly hundreds of miles.

The device is used to track the flights and migration patterns of bats and birds across the North Sea. It is one of many that make up a network of these devices which have been installed along the East Anglian and European coastlines.

Several British bird observatories have receivers, too, including Landguard Bird Observatory in Felixstowe and the RSPB Minsmere Nature Reserve.

Nathusius pipistrelle bat. Pic by Hugh Clark / Bat Conservation Trust

Nathusius pipistrelle bat - Suffolk is playing a key role in monitoring the creatures - Credit: Hugh Clark / Bat Conservation Tr

The data from the Benacre project, which involves the Norwich Bat Group, will be analysed by Wageningen University as part of their studies into migrations of Nathusius' pipistrelle bats. It will also be used by the Norwich Bat Group for the same purpose.

Scientists only discovered firm evidence seven years ago that Nathusius' pipistrelle bats were migrating across the North Sea after one that had been ringed in south-west England was found in Holland.

The bat had made a journey of 370 miles.

A Nathusius' pipistrelle in flight Picture: RORY TALLACK

A Nathusius' pipistrelle in flight - Credit: Archant

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Adam Willis, a graduate engineer for the Environment Agency, said: "We were happy to work with the Norwich Bat Group on this and we hope the data produced from the receiver helps them conserve and protect bats and birds."

Jane Harris, a national Nathusius' Pipistrelle project officer for the Norwich Bat Group, said: "The installation would not have been possible without the help and support from the Environment Agency. Thanks to them we have gained another receiver in the East Anglian array. This will help provide valuable information about the poorly understood seasonal movements of Nathusius pipistrelle in the region."

Installing the bat receiver station

Installing the bat receiver station - Credit: Environment Agency

Scientists fix tiny radio transmitters weighing just 0.3g to the bats so their movements can be recorded by the receivers. The tags are attached between the shoulder blades with medical glue and will fall off after two to three weeks.

While Nathusius' pipistrelle bats have been found on the EDF Energy Sizewell power station estate, most of those logged by ringers in recent years have flown from the south-west, crossing Suffolk and leaving the UK around the Minsmere area - flying to and from Holland, Belgium and even as far as Latvia and Lithuania.

There had been instances of them being found on oil platforms but no clear indication or evidence that they could fly across the North Sea and that this might be a common pattern among the species.

Work has been ongoing to try to identify the bats' North Sea migration routes including using bat detectors on board ferries.