An rare species of bat, not recorded within Derbyshire since the last ice-age, has recently been found in the county.
The Derbyshire Bat Group has discovered the rare barbastelle bat, which is a woodland specialist and very distinctive because it is the UK’s only bat with black fur - all other species are brown or ginger.
The barbastelle’s ‘echolocation calls’ were recorded by group member Matt Cook at a location in north-east Derbyshire after he was tipped off by an ecological consultant.
All British bats echolocate using ultrasound and bat conservationists use handheld detectors to listen to these calls to help identify which species they are listening to.
Matt’s recordings were then verified by the group’s rare bats committee, who confirmed they belonged to the barbastelle bat.
These bats have been recorded in nearby Nottinghamshire for several years but no-one had recorded one in Derbyshire until one evening in September 2015 when Matt detected them.
Matt said: “The bat made several passes as it flew past me foraging in the area for insects. It is very exciting to know this rare mammal is foraging within the Derbyshire borders.
“We now need to establish whether there are suitable roosting sites in the Derbyshire area for them so that we can help conserve and protect them.”
Barbastelles emerge from their roosts later in the evening as they are slow-flying and use this late emergence technique to avoid predation by predators such as tawny owls and hobbys.
It has a distinctive pug-shaped nose and its ears are broad and joined at the base on top of the head. It mainly feeds on moths but will also feed on flies and beetles.
It is one of Britain’s rarest mammals with an estimated 5000 individuals in England and Wales - it is not found in Scotland or Northern Ireland - and on average weighs about the same as a £1 coin.
This record is one of the most northerly encounters of the barbastelle in England - but the bat is more commonly found in other countries across Western Europe.
Derbyshire Bat Conservation Group is making steps towards working with the landowner to further study the area and its importance for bats.
For more information, visit their website at www.derbyshirebats.org.uk.