News article created on 16 February 2016

Rare bats take refuge by canal amid tricky winter

Some of the UK’s rarest bats have for the first time been found hibernating in a lime kiln-turned-bat cave beside the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal.

Ecologist Mark Robinson at Brecon Lime Kilns Ecologist Mark Robinson at Brecon Lime Kilns

Our ecologists found the protected lesser horseshoe bats in a historic lime kiln, converted for the animals back in 2013 in partnership with the Vincent Wildlife Trust. While bats have been found at the site before, this is the first time experts have been able to confirm that the animals are using the kiln to hibernate.

Secure place for bats

One of the smallest bat species in the UK, the lesser horseshoe is also one of the country’s rarest, relying on finding hibernation spots that stay cold enough to allow their body temperature to drop. The lime kiln, specially adapted to trap cold air, provides a secure place for the bats to spend the winter where they won’t be disturbed.

Dr Mark Robinson, ecologist at Glandŵr Cymru, said: “It’s really exciting to see that the lesser horseshoe bats are using the lime kiln. Whenever we create habitats for wildlife along the waterways we always try to provide what’s best for them, and it’s great that in this case the bats agree it’s where they want to be. 

“At this point it’s not clear what kind of impact this mild weather will have had on bat populations, but it’s likely that many may have struggled to find places cold enough to stay for the winter. For species like the lesser horseshoe, differences of a couple of degrees can mean life or death, as if they get too warm they’ll use up their energy supplies faster and may not make it to spring. Considering how rare these bats are, any help we can give them in providing safe, cool places to hibernate is a very good thing.”