The earliest ever recorded wild baby bats in the UK have been born at Bodiam Castle, the National Trust property in East Sussex, it has been announced.
The four baby Daubenton’s bats were discovered this week by two licensed bat experts in a roost in the gatehouse of the fourteenth-century stone castle. It was estimated from their size that they were already several days old, putting the date of birth for the earliest recorded wild bat born in the UK as early as Friday 16 May.
Bats are regularly born earlier than usual at Bodiam Castle due to the good nature of the site, but this is the first time the castle has broken the records not only for the first births of the year but the earliest births ever recorded. The previous earliest pups at Bodiam Castle were born on 30 May 2012. The early births have been put down to the warm weather as fertilisation is both delayed and activated by weather and food sources.
Numbers at the bat colony at Bodiam Castle vary year to year, but on average there are over 200 Daubenton’s bats, with 321 recorded in 2012. The roost is also used by another bat species in the Myotis family, the Natterer’s bat, with up to 100 of these counted in the past.
Karen Hammond, Visitor Experience Officer and bat carer  at Bodiam Castle comments: “We are delighted to have the earliest ever recorded bat births in the country. We take great pride in our bat colony and ensure it’s a safe environment for the species we have. The maternity roost is away from the public and closely monitored to ensure the bats are not disturbed.
“However, visitors can often hear them chattering and sometimes a wandering baby bat does have to be returned home. The Daubenton’s bats don’t always like sharing the area with the Natterer’s species and have been known to kick them out. But this year, they all seem to be getting along just fine, with each species having a colony on either side of a beam.”
Dr. Carol Williams, Director of Conservation at the Bat Conservation Trust, adds: “The majority of baby bats are usually born in June and July, and the previous earliest we’ve had reported was 23 May 2011 in Devon. This latest discovery is now the earliest known report of a wild-born baby bat in the UK. The mild winter is likely to have offered more feeding opportunities to bats, meaning they have come out of hibernation in better than usual condition. This, combined with early warm weather, may have contributed to this especially early arrival.”
If a member of the public finds a baby bat they should contact the Bat Conservation Trust helpline for advice on 0845 1300 228.