Rural – Jersey Country Life Magazine

BATS IN JERSEY

Nigel Mather and his bat box

For the first time, the Jersey Bat Group have evidence of a Nathusius bat roosting in a bat box in the Island.

The box was made from waste timber by the Acorn Woodshack and was a Father’s Day present for Nigel Mather, who lives in St Martin. 

He put the bat box on the gable end of a garage overlooking his garden, where there was little disturbance. ‘I left it there and forgot about it really,’ he said. ‘In the summer I noticed what looked like mouse droppings directly under the bat box. It’s quite obvious as there is a patio beneath. I contacted the Jersey Bat Group and they got quite excited about it. It turns out it’s the first time that they have had recorded evidence of this bat roosting in a bat box.’  

Two members of the group arrived armed with a chart of bat poo to identify the droppings, and they shone a specialised torch in the box. They could see two pairs of eyes and suspected they were long-eared bats. The poo was then sent for DNA analysis, which revealed that what Nigel had were Nathusius bats.

Miranda Collett, training officer with the Jersey Bat Group, said: ‘We have suspected that this species has been in boxes previously, but have not found droppings to analyse. Nathusius bats are a migratory species. For eight years the Jersey Bat Group have been part of a project to study them in spring and autumn. Through ringing, we have evidence of long-distance migration, from or to Russia and Latvia.

‘Although this is not a rare species, it is of special interest as it is migratory. The only other bats in boxes we have confirmed using DNA analysis are Common Pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pipistrellus). We have found other species in the boxes that are likely Long-eared bats or Myotis bats, but it is very difficult to find their droppings to send away for analysis.

‘It is an exciting find and Nigel is right to be very proud. We will ask him to keep an eye on it next year as they will likely return.’

Mr Mather agreed: ‘Once they have found a roost they like, they tend to come back. I last saw them in September.’ 

Sound recordings for two and a half nights also showed just how busy with night life the field is next to Nigel’s house.

‘When they analysed it, there were more than 500 individual sound files that had been recorded and there were six individual species of bat,’ he said. ‘I had no idea that the night sky was as chatty as it is.’

The box was made at the Acorn Woodshack, which provides work and training for people with a disability or long-term health condition. Woodshack manager John Hill said: ‘We are delighted that one of our boxes has been inhabited. The box was made by Mark Shales. We have tweaked measurements slightly over the years depending on what timber we had available and with information gained online or through the Jersey Bat Group. As Nigel discovered, they make a great gift!’

Bat boxes are available in the Woodshack section of the Acorn Reuse shop. Prices start at £20.

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