LATEST NEWS - June 2023
Sussex Bat Group Launches their new National Bat Monitoring Program (NBMP) Guide, and provides training at the Knepp Estate about the different types of surveys and how to take part! - Guide Available on our Bat Records Page
We are delighted to see these Greater Horseshoe bats in their newly renovated roost site. Although full grown, this pup is clinging to mum as it practices flying. Just 20 months ago, in partnership with wonderful Vincent Wildlife Trust, we launched an appeal to raise funds to buy this derelict stable block in West Sussex where a pioneering group of Greater Horseshoe bats, with young pups, had been discovered…the first significant record of breeding for the species in the Southeast of England for more than 100 years!
The building they were discovered in was due to go on the market for development – so we launched the "Sussex Bat Appeal". Not only did you help to raise the purchase price within five months, we were able to raise further funds towards fixing the roof and walls, so that the roost is safe and will remain so for future generations. It is thanks to your donations that these pioneering bats now have a safe haven to raise their pups and are potentially able to return to their former ranges in the years to come. So thank you again. Stay tuned for more updates.
We have very busy with events for the past couple of months. These included bat walks at Kingley Vale Nature Reserve, Southwick Hill, Aldingbourne Church and St Mary's Churchyard in Chichester. We also hosted a stand at The Floral Fringe Fair, in Loxwood, promoting the work of our group.
The Sussex Bat Group was formed in 1984 to help conserve bats in East and West Sussex. The Group is a registered charity made up of volunteers who share a passion for bats. We are affiliated with the Bat Conservation Trust. Bats are facing serious population declines across the UK. There is a bat group in nearly every county working to help reverse this decline.
The aims of the Sussex Bat Group are to:
Help conserve bats and their habitat.
Raise awareness of bats and their conservation.
These aims are achieved by:
Recording and monitoring bat populations in Sussex.
Assisting Natural England with roost visits where threats to bats may exist.
Carrying out conservation projects such as bat box schemes, improving roost sites or opening and protecting potential sites.
Organising talks and educational events throughout the year.
Providing a care and rescue service for sick and injured bats, with the back up of permanent bat hospitals.
Producing a regular newsletter - The Belfry
PLEASE NOTE: The Sussex Bat Group does not undertake surveys for commercial purposes or to object to planning applications.
SUSSEX BAT APPEAL
Roosting greater horseshoe bat
Thanks to the generosity of many, we have saved a derelict stable for greater horseshoe bats... but it is falling apart!
Find out why we need urgent help to make it a safe haven for this rare species and pups, and donate:
Dr Stephanie Murphy of the Sussex Bat Group adds, ‘There are now many questions for us to answer: is there already a small pioneer population of greater mouse-eared bats recolonising Sussex and we just don’t know where they are breeding, as in the case of the greater horseshoe bat, or, as result of climate change and the hottest summers on record in the UK, are we getting greater mouse-eared bats just beginning to move over from mainland Europe to settle in the UK?
Press Release: Rare bats settle 100km east, attracted by fine food and a property with potential
An urgent appeal has been launched to help save the home of a pioneering breeding colony of greater horseshoe bats recently discovered in West Sussex. The site, currently up for sale, is some 100km east of the bats’ current stronghold in Devon and Dorset — an enormously encouraging sign for a bat that suffered an estimated 90% decline in Britain in the 20th century.
“With help, this small but hugely significant colony of greater horseshoe bats could become a real biodiversity success story — a species on the road to recovery and now returning to one of its former haunts after an absence ofmore than a century,” said Dr Lucy Rogers, CEO with wildlife charity Vincent Wildlife Trust. The Sussex Bat Appeal has been launched by Vincent Wildlife Trust and Sussex Bat Group to buy the derelict stableblock being used by the bats before it is placed on the open market. The two organisations have been given nine months by the owners to raise the purchase price. £200,000 will secure ownership of the stable block and a further £150,000 will fund the renovation work and the building enhancements needed to allow the bat colony to expand.
“Once the site is enhanced for the bats, we would expect over time to see good levels of survival and reproductive success, resulting in a growing, thriving maternity colony. It is also hoped that this site will act as a honeypot, attracting further pioneers to this area,” said Dr Henry Schofield, Head of Conservation for the Trust. Vincent Wildlife Trust currently looks after the roost sites of some 50% of Britain’s greater horseshoe bat population and has been instrumental in driving the recovery of this bat species, helped too by legal protection given to all bat species in 1981.
The greater horseshoe bat is one of the largest bats found in Britain and one of the easier bats to identify, with its horseshoe-shaped ‘nose’ and a preference to dangle upside down from a beam or ceiling, held on by its spindly legs and cloaked with its wings when asleep. Other than its tiny cousin, the lesser horseshoe bat, no other British bat hangs in this way. By the latter half of the 20th century, the species was heading for possible extinction, following a loss of insect-rich pasture and semi-natural woodlands over which to feed, a lack of suitable, undisturbed sites for breeding and hibernation, and the use of now-banned timber treatment chemicals.
Until now, the greater horseshoe bat has been largely confined to south-west England and parts of Wales. From a 20th century low of some 4,000, the current estimated population is around 13,000 (to put this in context, there is an estimated three million pipistrelles — our most common bat). This rise in its population may have helped fuel this eastward quest to plant new roots in an old home. The West Sussex site will be owned by Vincent Wildlife Trust as a bat roost in perpetuity. It will be managed by the Trust in conjunction with the Sussex Bat Group. “Right now, this is probably the most important greater horseshoe bat roost site in Britain and the most significant find since the group was formed in 1984. It was discovered by a member of Sussex Bat Group in 2019 and we are determined to raise the funds needed to secure the building for this vitally important bat colony.
As well as wardening and managing the site, there will also be opportunities for volunteers to help with the monitoring of the bats,” said Sheila Wright, Secretary to the Sussex Bat Group. More information about greater horseshoe bats, the Sussex Bat Appeal and ways to donate can be found at www.vwt.org.uk/sussex-bat-appeal