At Burrator Reservoir we have 120 bat boxes located over three woodlands. We check these every month between April and October and invite volunteers to join us. Read on to find out more about how our award-winning project was set up, the results to date and to see some of the bats using our boxes.

This large bat box project started in 2010 and was funded by South West Lakes, South West Water and the Devon Bat Group. The monthly checks are still led by South West Lakes and South West Water. We encourage as broad a range of people as possible to come along to our checks and our volunteers are usually a mixture of wardens and rangers, consultant ecologists, students and people who are simply really interested in wildlife. This year, we had our youngest volunteer ever, Annabel, who came along with her dad and is only 5 years old.

We have four types of bat boxes at Burrator which create a variety of spaces and crevices for many bat species to use throughout the year. Two types are made from woodcrete (sawdust and concrete) and the other two types are made from wood. Where we can, our volunteers also make replacement bat boxes from fallen trees from Burrator Reservoir

All 120 of our boxes have been used by bats at some point since 2010. This project has allowed us to understand which species of bats are using our boxes, what types of boxes they prefer and how our woodland management practices can help bats.

We have found a total of eight species using our bat boxes since 2010; common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared, Daubentons, Natterers, whiskered, barbastelle and noctules. This year we found seven of these species (we did not find barbastelle) and have counted over 360 bats.

Here are some photos of the bats we found this year and more information about them. Any disturbance to bats, like using torches and handling them, requires a licence from Natural England. Neil Reeves, our Director of Visitor Experience, Paul McNie who is the Waste Water Environment Manager for South West Water and I hold the appropriate bat licences which allow us to undertake these surveys with our volunteers.
As well as the bats in the boxes we also have both species of horseshoe bat, greater and lesser, using other roosting sites in the wider Burrator catchment. We have three species of pipistrelles in the UK and this year we found common pipistrelle and soprano pipistrelle in our boxes. Pipistrelles are the smallest of our bat species and it can be tricky to tell them apart. We look at the size, skin and fur colours and the way the veins run across the wings.

Noctules are one of our biggest bats. Apart from being large, they have sleek and uniform coloured ginger brown fur and dark facial features. We have two species of long eared bats in the UK and this year we have found the brown long eared in our boxes. These bats have ears almost as long as their bodies, big eyes, a pointy muzzle and a pale cream chest and belly.

Natterers belong to the genus/group myotis along with five other of our UK bats. Most of the bats we find are natterers, usually in large clusters but we also find them alone or in a box with other species of bats. Natterers have a bare pink face, leathery brown ears which sweep up at the tips and a white cream belly.
As well as noting down what species we have in our boxes, when we can we also weigh them, check their sex, age and their breeding condition, but always with the wellbeing of the bat in mind.

We are privileged to have nearly half of the UK’s bat species using our boxes in good numbers and have enjoyed finding and recording bats this year.

We look forward to next April when we can welcome more of you to our site and teach you all about the bats that live here.

If you want to get the emails about these bat box checks email me on [email protected].

Common pipistrelle and weighing photos by Kat Bray.