Hanging around at Brockholes – it’s a bat’s life

Being Reserve Officer at Brockholes is no regular 9 to 5 job. For Lorna Bennett, it’s a way of life, a complete commitment and passion to care for the environment in any way she can.

When she’s not busy heading up the conservation volunteers at Brockholes, Lorna herself is a volunteer with local wildlife groups and a volunteer Bat Roost Visitor for Natural England.  This year her volunteering has seen her rehabilitating bats, particularly a group of baby Common Pipistrelle bats that were orphaned during the cold and wet summer period.

Young bats, known as pups, are each born furless and flightless and are reliant on their mum’s milk until they are strong enough to fly and catch insects to feed themselves. Each female bat usually has just one pup per year and bonds closely with her baby. The pups grow really quickly and within around six weeks of being born they are almost fully grown and are able to fly and become self-sufficient.  However, in their early months these little bats face a host of challenges.

Lorna told us; “As a volunteer, I was called to a local house where lots of very young bats, only about 10 days old, were crawling from their roost under the roof slates towards the warmth of the chimney flue of the house. Each night several pups were getting through a small gap into the chimney (alongside the warm flue) then falling right down to the ground floor of the house and crawling out under the lady’s gas fire.  Their mums couldn’t follow through the narrow gap to retrieve them, so by the time they crawled out at the bottom they were cold and exhausted.” 

When she’s not busy heading up the conservation volunteers at Brockholes, Lorna herself is a volunteer with local wildlife groups and a volunteer Bat Roost Visitor for Natural England.  This year her volunteering has seen her rehabilitating bats, particularly a group of baby Common Pipistrelle bats that were orphaned during the cold and wet summer period.

When bat pups get separated from their mums, the best course of action is usually to try and reunite them, but sadly this was not possible at the roost where these had been found.  Instead the only option was to hand rear them, then rehabilitate them and ultimately release them at Brockholes to join the other Common pipistrelles already resident at the reserve.

In all, Lorna has successfully reared 19 of the bat pups at her home, feeding them on puppy milk when really young and then progressing to feeding them mealworms. Lorna has also been test-flying them at home, with the strongest flyers then being released into one of the Brockholes polytunnels each evening. This has given them a safe and enclosed space in which to learn how to fly proficiently and how to hunt for small insects. There are bat boxes and cloths inside the polytunnel too, so that the young bats can learn how to find roost sites.

Despite its tiny size, one Common Pipistrelle bat can eat up to 3,000 insects (mainly midges) per night!

The strongest little bats are now ready to go back to the wild, so will be placed in bat boxes in ideal habitat in the reserve.  The slightly younger ones will continue their flight training and will soon follow.

As an organisation, The Lancashire Wildlife Trust works closely with Natural England and other nature conservation organisations across the region, and many of our dedicated staff and volunteers each do amazing work for a more than one of them. 

All bat species, their breeding sites and resting places are fully protected by law - they’re European protected species. 

You can contact the Bat Conservation Trust’s bat helpline on 0345 1300 228 if you find an injured or grounded bat, or if think you have a bat roost in or near your house and need any advice.