Plas Maenan Country House Bat Colony
Plas Maenan Country House is also host to one of the largest colonies of lesser horseshoe bats in the British Isles.
Rhinolophus hipposideros is an internationally endangered species and the old tunnel complex under the house (reputed to have been used to store treasures from the National Gallery during the war) is a nursery roost in summer and hibernaculum in winter.
See The Bats
The bats, often numbering over 500, emerge at dusk from a ruined folly on the lower terrace.
Working with the Countryside Council for Wales and Clwyd Bat Group we plan to install cctv cameras and convert part of the orangery into a bat information and observation centre.
Lesser Horseshoe Bat
Horseshoe bats have a horseshoe-shaped fleshy structure called a nose-leaf surrounding the nose. The nose-leaf amplifies the ultrasonic calls that the bat emits when searching for food.
The Lesser Horseshoe Bat is one of the world's smallest bats, weighing only 5 to 9 grams, with a wingspan of 192-254 mm and a body length of 35-45 mm. It has strong feet that it uses to grasp rocks and branches, and can see well in spite of its small eyes.
The Lesser Horseshoe Bat ha been extinct in northern England and the north midlands over the last 50 years. This species is in decline due to a number of factors, including the disturbance or destruction of roosts, changes in agricultural practices (such as the increased use of insecticides, which reduce prey availability) and the loss of suitable foraging habitats.
Working towards helping bio diversity, we wish to see the population of these bats conserved and, if possible, enhanced. Hopefully, our new bat information and observation centre would contribute towards increasing education and interest, thus taking a step closer to this wider goal.
Behaviour and Habitat
extract below from the Bat Conservation Trust Website
The lesser horseshoe bat is one of the smallest British species, being around plum-sized. At rest it hangs with the wings wrapped around the body . Like the greater horseshoe bat, it has a complex noseleaf which is related to its particular type of echolocation system.In the summer lesser horseshoe bats emerge about half an hour after sunset. The emergence follows a period when the bats fly around within the roost with some appearing outside the roost entrance; presumably they are testing the conditions outside before emergence. Although there are peaks of activity at dusk and dawn bats are active all night throughout the breeding season. Lesser horseshoe bats are sensitive to disturbance and twist their bodies as they scan their surroundings before flying off. Lesser horseshoe bats feed amongst vegetation in sheltered lowland valleys. They rarely fly more than five metres above the ground, frequently circling over favoured areas and often gleaning their prey from branches. Large prey is often taken back to a temporary night roost or sometimes dealt with whilst the bat is hanging in trees. Feeding remains are often found in these temporary night roosts, particularly in porches and the entrance to tunnels.
Lesser horseshoe bats were originally cave dwellers, but summer colonies are now usually found in the roofs of larger rural houses and stable blocks offering a range of roof spaces and a nearby cellar, cave or tunnel where the bats can go torpid in inclement weather. They prefer access through an opening that allows uninterrupted flight to the roof apex but are capable of using more inconspicuous gaps. The colony may shift between attics, cellars and chimneys throughout the summer, depending on the weather. The whole colony may form a dense cluster, especially in cooler weather during lactation but if the roost gets very hot individuals hang spaced slightly apart.
Lesser horseshoe bats hibernate from September/October until April and frequently into May, using caves, mines, tunnels and cellars. Lesser horseshoe bats are often active in hibernacula in autumn and spring, especially towards dusk in warm weather, when feeding is more likely to be successful. They appear to select places with similar temperatures to those sought by greater horseshoe bats, preferring temperatures of up to 11ºC and high humidity. Males tend to arrive earlier than females and are often more numerous. Many sites only have one or a few bats hibernating in them and it is rare to find large numbers in a site.
Lesser horseshoe bats do not cluster together but hang a little apart form their neighbours, usually in exposed situations, but sometimes in open crevices. They may be found at any height, venturing much further into underground sites than other bats. Flies (mainly midges), small moths, caddis flies, lacewings, beetles, small wasps and spiders.
Mating takes place during autumn, sometimes later in winter. Maternity roosts are almost always formed in buildings and may be occupied from April, though most breeding females do not arrive until May. Maternity colonies of the lesser horseshoe bat are mixed-sex, with up to a fifth of the colony being male. Approximately half to two-thirds of the females in the nursery roost give birth to a single young between mid-June and mid-July. Lactation probably lasts four to five weeks, by which time the young can fly from the roost. Young are completely independent at six weeks. Most young are sexually mature in their second autumn.
The vice-county of Clwyd includes counties of Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham. It is a region of spectacular scenery, from upland hills, lush valleys and stunning coastal areas, with rivers and woodlands a plenty. Combined with a varied geology, this mosaic of habitats makes Clwyd an excellent area for bats which is reflected with its diversity and sizeable bat populations. In particular Clwyd is a strong hold for the nationally scarce lesser horseshoe bat, however a total of at least 12 of the UK's 18 resident bat species can also be found in the area!
Maintaining this level of bat diversity, encouraging growth in populations and protecting known roosts along with the habitat which support them is essential so future generations can also wonder at these fascinating animals! Our work over the years has helped significantly with these challenges but this will be a never ending task as the UK changes and develops over future generations and so we always need more help! To find out more, about what you can do to help bats it the area, check out The Bat Conservation Trusts website which has a wealth of information, from how to build bat boxes to current population trends or contact us now!