Remarkably, 13 out of the UK's 17 breeding species of bats can now be found at Knepp, including two of the rarest in Europe.
Bechstein’s, a tree-living bat associated with old growth broadleaved woodland, is so rare little is known about it. It has a long, pink muzzle and reddish-brown fur, big ears, and feeds on spiders and day-flying insects resting in the trees. A maternity roost was confirmed at Knepp in 2018.
Barbastelle bats, with endearing, upturned noses like a pug and wide, rounded ears joining at the top of the head (a useful distinguishing feature) roost behind the loose bark of aged trees and can live to 23 years. Previously only recorded on bat detectors at Knepp, a feeding male was caught along the river restoration in 2018. He was radio-tracked to a tree in the Southern Block, confirming – for the first time – that this species is now roosting at Knepp. Previously barbastelle bats had been radio-tracked commuting to Knepp from a breeding roost site at the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Mens Reserve – a 28km round-trip.
Surveys pre- and post-river restoration have shown that this area has become an important foraging and commuting route. In particular, female soprano pipistrelles appear to have benefited greatly from the restoration works, having founded a nursery roost nearby.
In contrast to the days of intensive farming, there are no longer any pesticides going in to the system. This, along with the abundance of nectar sources, has resulted in a resurgence in insect numbers which, in turn, has resulted in a resurgence of bats. The hedgerows, streams and trees all provide important flight paths and foraging opportunities as the bats commute about the landscape.