14th January 2019

Protected species thrive at Burrator thanks to batty volunteers

An eight-year project to install and monitor bat boxes at Burrator reservoir has provided valuable insight into the activities and preferences of eight protected species.

In 2010, 120 bat boxes of five different designs were erected in three woodlands around the reservoir. Since then volunteers have undertaken nearly 7,000 box checks in all types of weather, every month between April and October.

The project is led by Paul McNie, Waste Water Environment Manager at South West Water, and Neil Reeves, Head of Countryside and Recreation at South West Lakes Trust. Both are licensed bat workers who have voluntarily given thousands of hours of their own time to the project and inspired hundreds of volunteers to join them.

Paul explained: “Bats are important because they represent over one-third of British mammal species and are indicator species for the health of the environment. Understanding our bat population helps us understand the health of our woodland ecosystem and informs future habitat management decisions.

“From this project, we have developed a specific understanding of bat habitat choice and box use which has informed and continues to inform the woodland management plans at this site, as well as providing an insight and greater understanding of an often-misunderstood group of animals.”

Neil said: “So far, we have found eight species of bat using the boxes: Common pipistrelle, Soprano pipistrelle, Brown long-eared, Daubentons, Natterers, Whiskered, Barbastelle and Noctule bats.  

“Combined with our research into horseshoe bats and their use of buildings and underground sites around Burrator reservoir, this really shows the importance of Burrator reservoir woodlands to these European protected species in the wider Dartmoor landscape.”

Each of the 120 boxes has been occupied by bats over the eight years. The most bats recorded in one box was 40 (Natterers) in September 2018.

“We have been able to evidence and demonstrate clear seasonal preferences for box type by different species of bat,” added Paul.

“This not only helps local understanding, but when considering appropriate mitigation for roost loss or development implication, this information becomes valuable in the much wider context of bat conservation.”

At least 4,000 volunteer hours have been dedicated to the project from South West Lakes Trust, South West Water and Devon Bat Group who all jointly funded and installed the boxes. Volunteers have been a mix of adults, children, consultants, volunteer bat warden trainees, research students and those that are simply interested in wildlife.

This approach has allowed bat preferences to be documented and now informs enhancement projects and mitigation at other bat roosts on South West Water land.

The Burrator Bat Box Scheme won the 2018 Pennon Environmental Award.

For further information please contact:

South West Water

www.southwestwater.co.uk/contactus