By Annika Binet and the Jersey Bat Group
It’s not often that we get a new mammal species in the Channel Islands so when we do it’s a pretty exciting event!
During a recent Jersey Bat Group bat trapping session in St Catherine’s Woods as part of the Woodland Project a small Myotis bat was caught which we were unable to formally identify. Following DNA analysis of a faecal sample by Warwick University Ecological Forensics Service we are delighted to confirm that the bat was an Alcathoe’s bat – Myotis alcathoe. This is the first record for this species in the Island.
Alcathoe’s bat is a rare species with narrow ecological requirements. It was only identified as a separate species in Greece in 2001, and was first found in the UK in 2010. It has only been confirmed in a few locations in the UK (in Sussex and Yorkshire) as well as from limited sites across Europe.
The IUCN Red List assesses Myotis alcathoe as Data Deficient, but it is considered threatened in several areas because of its rarity and vulnerability to habitat loss. The species is a woodland specialist, with a strong preference for roosting in trees.
Dr Amy Hall, Chair of the Jersey Bat Group said ‘We are very excited to find this species in the Island for the first time. As the Woodland Project moves forward there may be further exciting new discoveries’.
The majority of bat work in Jersey has been through sound recordings from emergence surveys and activity walks. Myotis bats have very similar calls and, therefore, cannot easily be confirmed through sound analysis alone. Myotis alcathoe is a woodland specialist and normally roosts in trees. As we currently have no known tree roosts in Jersey, this is another element of the research project we are currently undertaking. If this bat had been a male it would be possible that it is a vagrant from France, they sometimes get blown across in storms, or hitch a ride of boats, but as it was a pregnant female the odds are that it is a resident species, which we have always had but never previously come across.
We have only just started this type of research in Jersey, very few trapping sessions have been done previously, and therefore we are only now getting to see some species which are resident in Jersey for which we have no known roosts. The next step is to go back and see if we can catch any more using a harp trap and acoustic lure, with which we can attract the bats to the trap. If we are lucky enough to catch more then we hope to be able to attach a radio transmitter and track the bat back to the roost – this can currently only be done with assistance from UK bat workers as although Jersey Bat Group members are licenced to trap bats none are licenced to attach radio transmitters at the moment.