Dear readers and bat enthusiasts!

In many European countries it is customary to designate the “Bat of the year”. Typically, this designation is based on the respective bat species’ importance for our environment or to bat research. Sometimes the species is designated due to its cross-border movements, for example due to their seasonal migration that ignores traditional state borders. However, the designation serves also to raise awareness about the species among the general public.

Following this tradition, but also because the Romanian bat fauna is one of the largest and most diverse in Europe, the Romanian bat research community, at the initiative of the Lilieci.ro bat portal, would like to present to you the first edition of  the “Bat of the year” competition. In January 2017 we had a brief debate and selection inside the Romanian bat research community and have agreed on three bat species out of the Romanian 32. The three species became the three finalists for this first edition of the competition.

However, it is certain that public involvement is essential for an effective bat and environment protection. Also, free choice remains a universal necessity. Thus we present you the finalists, so that you can have the final word. The three finalists of the competition “Bat of the year” in 2017, are:

The Barbastelle

With a nose for old and valuable forests

The lesser horseshoe bat

With the highest voice in Romania

The brown long-eared bat

With the most obvious ears of Romanian wildlife

The competition runs till 19th March 2017, and at midnight, based on all votes gathered, we will designate the winner. And throughout the rest of the year we will focus our efforts to offer you as many information as possible about the “Bat of the year” in 2017.

Below you have the option to vote for your favorite, but before that we invite you to check out the photo galleries of each species and their detailed descriptions. After voting we encourage you to stay and explore the portal’s content, and to support the work of the Lilieci.ro portal’s work with a donation! Thank you!

Select your favorite and vote it “Bat of the year” in 2017!

Finalists of the “Bat of the year” in 2017

The Barbastelle

With a nose for old and valuable forests

We say that the Barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus) has a nose for old and valuable forests, because it prefers to live in primeval, ancient forests and in forests with many old age trees. Thus the presence (or absence) of the species may provide clues about the conservation level, the health of the respective forest.

In appearance, the Barbastelle is a medium sized species, with short and snub nose. The ears are triangular and are, quite like the nose, short. Their fur has is dark, with blackish color. The species is resistant to cold and often hibernates in underground roosts (caves, abandoned mines, cellars). In these types of roosts we can often meet them at the entrance area, where they easily endure sub zero temperatures.

Photo gallery:

Because they prefer old forests, and are not present in the urban environment, there is rarely a direct conflict with humans. However, Barbastelles are still strongly affected by inadequate forestry practices, given that their favorite roosts are hollow trees, the loose bark of old trees and even dead wooden material.

The protection of Barbastelles can be achieved by the protection of feeding habitats and roosts. If old trees are cut down with preference, and dead wooden material is systematically removed from the forest, than the species cannot find adequate roosts, and the population will be affected. It is advisable to have 7-10 hollow trees per hectare, representing approx. 25-30 hollows, and to keep the dead wooden material in the habitat. In case of underground roosts it is recommended to avoid tourism and caving activities during the hibernation period (November 1 to March 31). More about responsible tourism here.

The lesser horseshoe bat

With the highest voice in Romania

Bats emit ultrasounds to navigate and to locate and capture insects. Well, the lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) emits ultrasound with the highest frequency among Romanian bat species, more specifically ultrasounds around 108-114 kHz. An “ultra”sound indeed.

These sounds and the echoes reflecting from the target allow the lesser horseshoe bat to have an acrobatic flight and very precise navigation, comparable only to other horseshoe bat species. The lesser horseshoe bat usually flies inside the forest, close to branches and leaves, even in the canopy, capturing his favorite food: midges, moths and craneflies.

Photo gallery:

Preferred roosts during the winter are underground locations, caves, abandoned mines, even cellars in urban or rural settings. Nursery colonies in summer use buildings, especially their attics, where the colony is hanging in a loose formation, bats having comfortable spaces between each other. This is also the case of hibernation colonies, where bats hibernate without touching each other. The hibernation colonies of the lesser horseshoe bat looks like a collection of plums, attached to the ceiling of the cave.

Lesser horseshoe bats are extremely faithful to the roosts used throughout the year, both in case of nursery colonies in buildings and underground roosts in winter. The protection of these locations is of major importance for the species. This protection can be achieved by not altering these locations, and by limiting the disturbance caused by human presence in the sensitive periods (in summer, between May 15 – 15 August 15, and in winter, between November 1 – March 31).

The brown long-eared bat

With the most obvious ears of Romanian wildlife

In a world where social status would be based solely on the size of ears, the brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus) would be among champions: its ear length is almost equal to its body length. But the life of the species is not made harder by the presence of these oversized ears, but in reality they provide an advantage.

In old deciduous forests, but also in parks and gardens, where the brown long-eared bat prefers to hunt, good ears are very useful. Flying with slow and precise maneuvers near vegetation and in the canopy, the bat emits very weak ultrasounds. Compared with other bat species, these ultrasounds are in the category of whispers, but even so provide detailed information about the environment, including about unsuspecting insects. The maneuverable flight and orientation helped by huge ears allows the bat to collect these insects with high precision directly from leaves.

Photo gallery:

Even with such ears, we will rarely see a brown long-eared bat resting or hibernating with fully opened ears. The species frequently used the entrance areas of caves, where temperatures can be very low, near or below freezing. This cold temperature would harm the fragile structure of the ears, it would effectively freeze them. They are better protected under the forearm and wings of the bat. Yes, the brown long-eared bat has ears so great, that when resting, they need to be ….folded.

During summer the species uses buildings and hollow trees to form nursery colonies. The protection of old deciduous forests is essential not only for the brown long-eared bat, but also for a series of other bat species. In addition, it is essential that buildings used by nursery colonies are properly managed, including their wooden structure, which needs to be treated accordingly. These wood treatments, if done with toxic materials, can cause the death of bat colonies, due to the fact that bats come into direct contact with lots of parts of the building, including with the air inside the room. Thus, it is important to use methods / materials that do not include toxic substances, ex. hot air or CO2 treatments.

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