Page last updated at 23:32 GMT, Thursday, 14 August 2008 00:32 UK

Dark times overshadow bat events

A pipistrelle bat (Pic: Martin Hind)
A pipistrelle bat that was spotted in Dingwall in the Highlands

A series of events on bats look set to be overshadowed by problems affecting the mammals' chances of survival, according to an expert.

Anne Youngman, the Bat Conservation Trust's Scottish officer, said wet weather may have hit the breeding season for a second year running.

Her concerns come ahead of the European Bat Research Symposium in Transylvania.

She said public walks being held across Scotland could prove vital in boosting protection of the animals.

There have been early signs the mammals were enduring a poor year in Scotland.

In April, bats were found lying on the ground and one was seen on Mull being mobbed by birds flying in daylight.

The behaviour was linked to extreme hunger.

Last year, adult bats were reported abandoning their young as they struggled to cope with bad weather and find enough food.

Dunblane-based Ms Youngman said: "My feeling is that it hasn't been a good year again."

She said other threats included habitat loss through the intensification of farming and from development.

Cluj-Napoca, the location for the 11th bat symposium, is known as The Treasure City because of its culture, arts and architecture
A bat was one of the forms of Dracula - the creation of novelist Bram Stoker in 1897 who based the character on a 15th century ruler in Transylvania, Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler
The symposium banquet will be held in a restaurant that is the local venue for the annual European Bat Night. Delegates have been told they will be able to hear the animals if they bring a bat detector

However, the bat officer expected one of the issues to be discussed at next week's symposium in Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania, in Romania would be wind turbines.

On the agenda is a presentation on wind farms in mountain areas of Portugal.

Ms Youngman said: "Wind farms were a hot topic at the last symposium.

"In Germany, there are turbines above forests and the mortality rate of bats has been found to be high.

"In Scotland, it was thought to be less of a problem because turbines tend to be in wide open spaces where bats are less likely to be."

But she said two dead bats had been found at Braes of Doune, Stirlingshire.

One had broken bones from a possible collision with a turbine blade, but the other had no obvious signs of impact.

Ms Youngman said: "There are different theories about wind farms.

"One of the concerns is that the blades turn so fast the bats can't detect them and another is a change in pressure which it is believed to damage the bats internally."

Bat walks

Speakers at the symposium include Prof Paul Racey, of the University of Aberdeen, who will present a paper written by himself and Dr Barry Nicholls.

Meanwhile, a series of events around European Bat Weekend on 30-31 August could prove important in raising the mammals' profile.

Ms Youngman said: "Events are being held all over Scotland and Europe and the bat walks that are held are one of the most helpful things we can do.

"There have been people who have found a bat in trouble and able to get it help because a neighbour went on one of the walks and knew what to do."

She said rangers at the Highland Council Countryside Ranger Service were "stars" of the Scottish events and this year had organised about 15 walks.

Seven of them are taking place in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey and Ross and Cromarty between 22 August and 27 September.

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