Aaron Middleton is co-ordinating a programme which involves the installation and biannual checking of artificial bat boxes within Muiravonside Country Park (which is managed by Falkirk Community Trust), with the aim of establishing a better understanding of bat roost preferences for artificial boxes in the Central Belt of Scotland.
The three types of boxes used were: natural handmade wooden boxes, handmade wooden boxes painted black, and Schwegler 2F boxes with a double front panel. The handmade boxes (natural and painted) were made as the result of several training workshops initially delivered by Echoes Ecology Ltd and, more recently, BatAbility Courses & Tuition, who have facilitated training for Scottish Waterways Trust’s Canal College which is a pioneering skills, work experience and employability programme that provided hands-on work experience for young people aged between 16-25 who were not in employment, education or training. Echoes paid for the purchase of the Schwegler boxes. In adition to the ongoing monitoring programme, the bat box scheme is also used in conjunction with training and education programmes.
Four areas were selected, and in each area bat boxes were installed on three trees; on each tree three different types of box were installed around three aspects of the tree (the west, the south and the east facing sides). A total of 12 trees were selected and overall 36 bat boxes were installed. The aspect that each type of box was installed on was altered between the three trees within each area, so for example, on Tree 1 the Schwegler box was on the east face, the painted box was on the west face and the natural box was on the south face; on Tree 2 the painted box was on the east face, the natural box was on the west face and the Schwegler box was on the south face, etc.
The four areas of trees are spread throughout the country park. Area 1 is adjacent to the River Avon Heritage Trail (S), on a small hill above the river; the trees chosen are in edge habitat. Area 2 is also close to the River Avon Heritage Trail, north of Area 1. These trees are on a level with the river and are within a small woodland. Area 3 is within a woodland at the south-west of the country park and away from running water. Area 4 is within a woodland at the north-west of the country park near a small burn which flows into the River Avon.
The bat boxes are being monitored twice a year, in early summer and autumn, and the numbers and species of bats in the bat boxes are being entered into a spreadsheet so that a comparison can be made over the years to see if there are any trends evident.
Two visits have been made since installing the boxes in October 2015 (in May 2016 and October 2016) and although it was not expected to record occupancy so soon, so far six soprano pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) have been recorded using three separate Schwegler boxes each on a different aspect within two separate areas. Bat droppings were also found within Schwegler boxes in the other two areas. No evidence has been found to suggest bats are using either the natural or the black painted wooden boxes yet.