Recently I have been making really good use of Arbtech’s unlimited CPD budget!

This update takes the form of a review about a bat-handling course run by Gail Armstrong a.k.a. ‘The Bat Lady’ at her home in the lovely Silverdale. The course provided me with one-to-one basic training and introduction to bats, focusing on their ID and handling.

The day was broken up into six sessions and a practical at the end. Firstly we looked at why we handle bats, reviewing the legality of bat handling and how you go about getting a licence, the different levels of licencing and what each level permitted you to do. I already had a basic knowledge of this (thanks, Martin!) and as the course was a one-to-one it meant we could skim across sections I had already had some knowledge of and focus on areas I needed to learn more about, which I found really helpful.

We moved onto bat anatomy and physiology. This was again really interesting, as I had done some reading around the subject, but Gail’s slideshows and explanations really helped it all come together for me. I find the wing structure particularly fascinating to learn about.

Next up, my favourite session

Identification of British bat species. I was instructed about the three different groups of British bats, which include the pipstrelle, myotis and noctule species. Gail is incredibly knowledgeable about every tiny detail regarding the characteristics of each of the individual species groups. For example the visual differences between common and soprano pipistrelles are hard to spot at first, but doable with practice. Pink or dark face? Hmmmmm…

As usual (common theme occurring) I was a bit nervous about my first time handling bats – what if I don’t like it? What if I’m not very good at it? What is they bite me? You get the jist…

I needn’t have feared because I thoroughly enjoyed handling the bats. If like me you are new to all this, then for a start, forget the enormous fruit bats you see David Attenborough talking about in tropical climates, which you may conjure up an image of in your head when you anticipate holding a bat for the first time! Instead, replace it with a cute and furry friend that is no bigger than a couple or three fingers wide and weighs practically nothing. Gail showed me that like most mammals, the different species each have their own personality characteristics ranging from the relatively calm common pipistrelle, to the feisty and naughty noctule! I learnt how to sex each bat and (at least, attempt to) age them; concentrating on looking for the distinguishing features of the various species whilst handling. This was a fantastic experience and one I don’t think I could get anywhere else in a one-on-one environment (at least outside of Arbtech’s consultants).

Summing up

In a way it was very reassuring (especially as we enter the bat survey season). If you’re interested in bats but you think to yourself, as I did, ‘how am I ever going to tell the difference between the species?’ then this course is perfect for you. Handling bats and taking the time to observe them up close and personal allows you to see how truly different they are; from the shape of their ears to the thickness of their fur. I should add that before we wrapped up, Gail kindly showed me some examples of rarer bats (using specimen carcasses). Honestly, prepare yourself. Without wanting to sound like a total girl, dead bats don’t smell very nice! With that said, it was good to see their characteristics and features up close, rather than just through pictures. We also discussed the risk of rabies, which if like me you’ve had your jabs, shouldn’t be much of a concern.

Brilliant course, Gail rocks

Overall, I had an amazing day. Gail is a brilliant tutor and manages to cram a ton of information into a single day, without you ever feeling rushed or under pressure. She also made me feel very welcome at her home, and I felt I could ask any questions at all, on or off topic. In terms of professional development, I’d give this course a 10/10 and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

A message from Amy

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