Level 1 bat licence training – a review

Level 1 bat licence training – a review

By Abigail Dodge

On the 6th and 7th July, I joined Wild Wings Ecology on their Level 1 bat licence training course in glorious Norfolk, thanks to the short course bursary programme run by the Old Chalk New Downs Project. Wild Wings are not only a consultancy and training provider but also take part in research projects. Such as the bats in churches programme, which helps manage the impacts of maternity colonies on churches.

The course focused on understanding what activities you could and couldn't perform under a level 1 class licence, laws and legislation protecting our 17 resident bat species, learning how to identify our flying furry mammals based on key physiological features.

The course consisted of 2 main practical’s. A visual assessment of a beautiful old church for any signs of bat use/presence, such as bat poop, pee staining (bleach spots covering internal features because bats defecate and urinate as they fly), feeding remains, and PRF's (potential roost features). We even got to have a look at and identify a dead juvenile natterer’s bat, recently found on the church floor. Suffice to say, the church was full of features and signs of bat activity (lots of poop and pee staining on wooden pews, the organ and floor). The night ended with an evening emergence and activity survey, where I had the chance to observe pipistrelle and natterer’s maternity roosts flee the eaves and fill the church vaults.  Feeding, swooping and pups learning to fly. On IR (infra-red) cameras, you could pick out clear emergences and sheer numbers of bats present, otherwise unseen in the gloom of the night filled church. Even through the dark you could still see their visage soar and dive about the cavernous space. Catching close up glimpses of them screeching past your face at high velocity, like mini-Mavericks.

The second day focused on how to recognise and what ages a good PRF in trees, as well as grading the tree based on its suitability to provide a dwelling place for bats. The site in question had a plethora of veteran and mature broadleaved trees with plenty of biomechanical features for bats to dwell. Our outing amongst the trees allowed me to put into practice recognising tree PRF's through visual assessments and grade each tree, in terms of how suitable/potential it had as a dwelling place for bats.

I found the course to be thoroughly enjoyable with lots to learn. Lotty was extremely engaging and good at imparting her knowledge, helping me to better understand the protections surrounding bats, their behaviours, and needs. The theory aspect of the course also helped give me confidence, cementing knowledge gained over the past few years and expanding on the VERY VAST subject of bat ecology and surveying.