Up to eight species of bats that fly the night skies over Willband Creek Park in Abbotsford will start this spring with new family accommodations, thanks to a local naturalists’ club.
Volunteers from the Abbotsford-Mission Nature Club (AMNC) recently set up two back -to-back maternity bat “condos” and one roosting box at the wetlands park on Bateman Road, with funding support from B.C. Nature and B.C. Naturalists Foundation.
The project began in 2019, when the club invited Aimee Mitchell of the BC Bat Community to assess what bats might live at Willband Creek Park, said Hank Roos, past president of the AMNC.
Using acoustic recordings and sightings, Mitchell identified eight species that use or reside in the park, including the western long-eared Myotis, little brown myotis, silver-haired bat, hoary bat and others.
Willband’s grassy wetlands provide ideal bat habitat, with access to fresh water and plenty of insects; the nocturnal mammals can consume their weight in flying insects (including mosquitoes) every night.
While bats roost in crevices in cottonwoods, rock faces and buildings, brooding mothers of some species gather in maternal colonies with their pups until late summer.
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Based on advice from Mitchell and their own research, the club chose two styles of boxes to accommodate various species.
“With increasingly hot summer temperatures in mind, the bat houses include ventilation and passages inside to allow the bat mothers to move around to find relief from the summer heat,” Roos said.
To help identify who has moved in, environmental studies students from the University of the Fraser Valley will collect bat guano from the site for lab analysis to confirm species and to monitor health and other factors.
This is one of many habitat enhancement projects the AMNC has undertaken at Willband Creek Park.
Since 1994, the club has planted thousands of trees and shrubs; installed nest boxes for swallows, wood ducks, and barn owls; erected an osprey nest tower; and in 2017, planned and built the viewing platform with a $90,000 Federated Co-Op grant from their Community Spaces Program.
The club works closely with the City of Abbotsford, funders, students, and other groups.
The AMNC meets the second Wednesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. often with guests speaking on a range of nature topics. Visit abbymissionnatureclub.ca for more information.