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Introduction to bats of the North East

There are eight species of bats known to be present and breeding in the region, Whiskered Bat
Myotis mystacinus, Brandt’s Bat M. brandtii, Daubenton’s Bat M. daubentonii, Natterer’s Bat
M. natttereri, Noctule Nyctalus noctula, Common Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus, Soprano
Pipistrelle P. pymaeus and Brown Long-eared Bat Plecotus auritus. Nathusius’ Pipistrelle P.
nathusi are also now known to be present in south east Northumberland in all months from March
to October although breeding has yet to be proven. There are a few but increasing numbers of
records for Leisler’s Bat Nyctalus leisleri (although the status of this bat in the North East is not
yet understood) and occasional records of other species of bats, both historical and recent.

The Durham and Northumberland Bat Groups were established in the 1980s and were among
the first bat groups in the country. They continue to be very active with thriving memberships. A
Cleveland Bat Group existed up to the mid-1990s. Following its demise, bat work in the former
Cleveland area was gradually taken up by both Durham and North Yorkshire bat groups but as
this is not either group’s core area it has meant that the south Cleveland area in particular has
been relatively little surveyed for bats.

Both the remaining bat groups have been involved in long term studies of bats in the region.
Durham Bat Group has been studying the bats at the field centre in Middleton-in-Teesdale since
1984 when a total count of 320 bats of all species was recorded. This building is known to
support roosting Whiskered Bats, Brandt’s Bats, Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle and
Brown Long-eared Bats. Counts of emerging bats have been undertaken in most years and the
numbers of each species have fluctuated, with 127 Common Pipistrelle and 42 Whiskered/
Brandt’s Bats counted in 2010.

Another long term study has been carried out since 1985 by John Steele of the Northumberland
Bat Group, at Brinkburn Priory. A count of 419 bats in June 1986 of what were then thought to
be Daubenton’s Bats, made it one of the biggest roosts of that species in England at the time.
However numbers have declined to an average of approximately 160 animals, a mixture of
Daubenton’s Bats and Natterer’s Bat which have now been established as breeding at Brinkburn.
Common Pipistrelle, Brown Long-eared bats, Whiskered/Brandt’s Bats and Noctule have all
been recorded roosting within the priory.

The maps which accompany the bat accounts are more a reflection of survey effort than a
true reflection of the species distribution. All bat species are European protected species and
commercially driven surveys to comply with legislation are now recording bats across the region
and when the data is passed on, are adding to our current knowledge of bat distribution. Bats
are a difficult group to identify with certainty in flight; current bat detectors and sound analysis
software are helpful in this but some species still cannot be reliably identified in this way. With
changing technology and increased survey effort, our knowledge of bat distribution is also
constantly changing.

The records shown on our maps do not differentiate between a known bat roost, a foraging
or flight record or a record of a downed bat which has come into care. With this coarse level
of detail this publication is not intended to be used for commercial bat consultations, and it is
recommended that the county bat groups are consulted for up to date records.

References

Written by Tina Wiffen (last updated Nov 12)