Barbastelle Bat

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What is a Barbastelle bat?

The barbastelle is one of the UK’s rarest mammals. It has long, silky fur that is blackish-brown in colour with white tips. Rounded ears meet on the forehead, and a short, upturned nose gives it a pug-like appearance. It roosts in crevices in woodland trees and forages at night on midges and other flying insects on wet floodplain grasslands. Barbastelles are fast and agile fliers and travel < 6km to their feeding grounds along flight corridors such as hedgerows and wooded streams.

Why is the Barbastelle bat important to the Surrey Hills?

Like all UK bats, the barbastelle is protected under UK law through the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 and is a European Protected Species, protected through the European Habitats Directive. It is patchily distributed across southern and central England and southern Wales.  It is threatened by loss of roost sites through inappropriate woodland management, drainage of wet woodlands and loss of landscape connectivity between its woodland roosts and foraging sites.

Good woodland management for the barbastelle will create/result in woodland with a good age structure including mature and over-mature trees to provide potential roost sites, a well-developed understorey to maintain humidity, areas of wet woodland and good landscape connectivity.

What habitat does the Barbastelle bat like?

Woodland.

Woodland is important because it is one of our most complex habitats and as such, can support more wildlife than almost any other UK habitat. Ancient woodland which has been continuously wooded since at least 1600 AD is particularly important, but younger secondary woodlands and even conifer plantations can be important for nature if managed sympathetically.

What can be done to benefit the Barbastelle bat?

Woodland which is well-managed for barbastelles also provides habitat opportunities for other woodland bats, woodpeckers, deadwood invertebrates and many species of flying insect.

Opportunities to create/improve/extend suitable habitat for this species include:
  • Thinning to encourage the development of the woodland shrub layer
  • Managing veteran trees
  • Creating and managing rides and glades
  • Managing drainage to conserve damp woodland areas
  • Controlling deer
  • Planting new hedgerows to improve landscape connectivity
  • Extending the hedge management cycle to allow hedges to grow taller and wider.
Creating and managing areas for the Barbastelle bat will help deliver the following benefits to communities:
  • Clean water
  • Clean air
  • Protection from and mitigation of environmental hazards
  • Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change
  • Thriving plants and wildlife
  • Beauty, heritage and engagement

These illustrations are by an artist taking part in a programme delivered by Watts Gallery Trust and funded by the Michael Varah Memorial Fund. This series of 30 Surrey Hills Indicator Species were commissioned by Surrey Hills Society and funded by Surrey Hills Trust Fund as part of the Making Space for Nature Exhibition.