Bowshank Bats Find New Home

Borders Railway ecology experts have helped protect a small group of bats residing in a Victorian rail tunnel close to Galashiels ahead of renovation works on the 165 year-old structure. 

New Roost (Bowshank)

The work has seen the team install one-way ‘bat flaps’ and ‘bat pipes’ to cavities in the tunnel to allow the bats to leave ahead of works starting in the tunnel, to prevent any harm to the species. The work was performed under licence from Scottish Natural Heritage.

Although no breeding or hibernation roosts were discovered in the tunnel, some Soprano pipistrelle and Myotis bats were found to be temporarily residing in spaces, such as those once used by railway workers who sought safety from passing trains.

To ensure the safety of the bats, following the removal of the exclusion devices after two weeks, entrances to the tunnel were fitted with secure doors to allow works to continue for the duration of the project.  Alternative roost sites in the form of bat boxes have been provided in nearby trees, which are already being used by a small number of bats.

Ecologist, Reuben Singleton, working with IKM Consulting, said: “Our initial surveys showed that a small number of bats were leaving the tunnel at dusk and re-entering it at dawn. Further investigation revealed a number of small cavities (bats can utilise cavities the size of the end of a small matchbox) in the tunnel where bats could be roosting.  On these cavities we installed temporary excluders and waited for the bats to leave. We will continue to monitor the tunnel for activity, but these methods will substantially reduce the risk to bats from the works. We expect that the bats will continue to use the alternative roost sites provided.”

Hugh Wark, Project Director, Network Rail, said: “We are committed to protecting local species as works progress, and being mindful of the local landscape that surrounds us.  Sometimes this means relocating local wildlife, and in doing so, it is essential that we work with ecology experts to do this correctly.”