People in southern Scotland asked to go batty

07 Mar 2016 | No. 2016-11

Very little is known about some of the bats to be found in southern Scotland but all that is about to change, thanks to an ambitious project that will enlist the help of people in the area.

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The project has been commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), in order to meet an urgent need for more information on the status of several rarer bat species for use in planning, development and conservation. Finding out more about bats is crucial to our being able to conserve them. “The focus of the project is on Noctule, Leisler’s bat and Nathusius’s Pipistrelle, three species that we know very little about,” said Rob Raynor of SNH but we are keen to use this opportunity to improve our understanding of all bat species that occur in this area.”

Anyone in southern Scotland can take part, as the survey requires absolutely no prior knowledge of bats. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) are working with other organisations and local libraries to enable the public to use cutting-edge (but easy to use) technology to record bats. The information they collect will be used to help rewrite bat maps for southern Scotland. Several bat species in this region are thought to be at (or close to) the northern limit of their British (and western European) ranges.

BTO is traditionally associated with bird research” said Mark Wilson of BTO Scotland but we are keen to use our experience in working with volunteers to help increase our understanding of other wildlife. The brilliant thing about this project is that it uses modern technology to enable everyone to collect information about a group of animals that mostly go unseen, and about which we have a lot to learn.”

The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), which supports over 100 local bat groups and 5,000 members around the UK, endorses the project. Scottish Officer of the BCT, Anne Youngman, said “We welcome this survey, the more we know about what bats we have and where they are the better we can protect them. We urge the public to join in, the survey is important, interesting and is likely to be fun too.”

Fifteen Bat Monitoring Centres have been set up across the survey region, from which the equipment needed to take part in the survey can be borrowed. This equipment is used to record bats over three consecutive nights, each night at a different location within a 1km square. After completing the survey, those taking part will send their recordings away to be identified and, in return, will receive information about the bats they found. The survey season runs from May until the end of September.

We still have a lot to find out about bats in Scotland and it seems every time we do any research, we uncover more interesting facts” said Lindsay Mackinlay of National Trust for Scotland, one of the organisations supporting the project and owner of Threave, the UK's only bat reserve, which is near Castle Douglas and within the area covered by this project.  "We are delighted to support the survey and are really excited to see what volunteers find when they start to investigate bats in the countryside around them.”

The number of detectors is limited, so anyone wishing to take part should register their interest as soon as possible, by reserving one or more 1km squares to survey online at

After reserving a square surveyors will be emailed a link to a site where a detector can be reserved at whichever Bat Monitoring Centre is most convenient for them.

This project follows a similar one started three years ago in Norfolk. Through that project, 1,523 1km squares have been surveyed, resulting in 4,443 complete nights of recording, and over a million bat recordings, making this one of the most extensive and high-quality datasets on bats in the world. “Southern Scotland is five times bigger than Norfolk, so it will be harder to achieve good survey coverage over the whole area” said BTO’s Mark Wilson. “However, there already seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for this survey among the wider public, and we are hopeful that the people of southern Scotland will rise to the challenge!”

Notes for Editors

  1. The survey region covers the southern quarter of the Scottish mainland, extending north to Fife in the east, and the counties of Falkirk, north Lanarkshire and north Ayrshire in the west. A map of the survey can be found here:
  2. The Southern Scotland Bat Survey is led by the British Trust for Ornithology BTO and commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage with support from the Bat Conservation Trust, the National Trust for Scotland (Threave / Threave Bat Reserve and Culzean Castle and Country Park), Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (Lochwinnoch RSPB Nature Reserve), Scottish Ornithologist’s Club - Aberlady, Duns library Contact Centre, Newton Stewart Library, Buccleuch Rangers (Bowhill House and Drumlanrig Castle),Lockerbie Library,Biggar and Upper Clydesdale Museum,Strathaven library,Scottish Deer Centre,Stranraer library, Scottish Wildlife Trust (Juniper Urban Wildlife Centre) and Cumnock library.
  3. Scottish Natural Heritage is the government's adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help people understand, value and enjoy Scotland's nature now and in the future. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at
  4. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation
  5. For more information about the project, please visit (

Contact Details

Ben Darvill
(BTO Scotland Development and Engagement Manager)

Tel: 01786 466562
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: ben.darvill [at]

Mark Wilson
(BTO Scotland, Research Ecologist)

Tel: 01786 466566
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: mark.wilson [at]

Stuart Newson
(BTO Senior Research Ecologist)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: ssbatsurvey [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2016-11

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews.
Please contact us to book an interview
Office: 01842 750050

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