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Keywords:

  • Pipistrellus;
  • seasonal activity;
  • population trends;
  • Nyctalus

Abstract

The seasonal activity of Leisler's bat Nyctalus leisleri and pipistrelle bats Pipistrellus spp. with respect to minimum bat numbers and habitat use were investigated in County Down, Northern Ireland using a driven transect from April 1998 to October 1998. Data were collected in lowland farmland near Belfast, Northern Ireland using two BatBox III bat detectors tuned to detect both species and species groups simultaneously. The number of bats/km increased during April, May and June, peaking in July and tailed off after this period. The main peak in July is assumed to reflect the occurrence of newly volant young. An increase in the number of pipistrelle social calls during August and September probably represented mating activity. Bat activity correlated with temperature in both N. leisleri and Pipistrellus spp., although bat numbers were independent of temperature after the middle of June. There was significant variation in habitat use by pipistrelle bats along roads over the study period. Pipistrelle bats were observed in greater numbers in areas of tree-line, cut hedge (≤1 m high) and deciduous woodland, and increased further when these habitats bordered both sides of the road. Nyctalus leisleri was found in similar numbers in all habitat types and there was no seasonal variation in habitat use. The validity of this method for revealing seasonal variation in bat numbers and habitat use is discussed. Ambient climatic conditions may affect the number of bats recorded, while some species with long-range echolocation calls, such as N. leisleri, may defy analysis of habitat associations.