Saving bats one roost at a time

Our amazing volunteers Andrew Kelvin and Rachel Baine have been working behind the scenes the past few months to secure the future of a soprano pipistrelle maternity roost in Sheskburn House, Ballycastle.

Andrew has been a bat carer and bat roost visitor with the Northern Ireland Bat Group for the past seven years and Rachel Baine has been helping with rescues for the past four years and recently gained her Bat Roost Visitor license.

Our volunteers have been working with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council to install a huge internal maternity roosting box for Soprano Pipistrelles within their council offices at Sheskburn House, Ballycastle. The problem arose when bats began to enter the offices through gaps in the ceiling and staff became anxious at finding both adult bats and pups all around the building. The site was monitored over the summer months and local volunteers regularly left water for dehydrated bats, releasing adults and returning pups to the roost when they were found. Something had to be done!

Rather than close the roost and provide an alternative which would be very disruptive, Andrew and Rachel worked hard to preserve and improve the existing roost in order to secure it for the future. However, the very conditions which were attracting the bats (mainly heat) was also causing the bats to spread out within the building and become trapped as the temperature was getting too high during the day with the heating permanently on.

Other problems included a very smooth wall beneath the roost exit point, which made it difficult for already heat exhausted bats to climb out. A large, insulated box was designed to fit within the space with internal ridging, easy exit via the existing access point and a hatched entrance for volunteer monitoring. Thick plastic sheeting on the base can be folded and brought down through the false ceiling for cleaning.

The box was constructed off-site and installed over winter once bats had left for hibernation. Lifting it into place was quite a challenge! Bespoke steel brackets were fabricated to take the weight and hold the box in place. The large area inside the box mimics the existing conditions but allows bats to spread out within the space without becoming trapped, either roosting near the entrance to be cool or moving further inwards for the heat. The success of the box and internal temperatures will be monitored over the next few years.

Thank you Andrew and Rachel!