Bat surveyors are a vital industry for protecting bats, their habitats and our wider world. Their work also allows important homes and offices to be constructed while protecting the nature that’s so important to all of us.  How do they monitor bats in darkness and what night vision technology do they use?

Bats - why are they so important?

Bats are the only mammals capable of truly flying and make up an impressive 20% of mammal species worldwide. In the UK all the bat species present are so-called “microbats” which are small and mostly feed on insects. Microbats are especially close to our hearts at Nightfox as they use echolocation, which is almost night vision, to maneuver and hunt in their environment.  Bats are vital for maintaining the natural levels and diversity of insect populations as well as being graceful and cute creatures. That’s why bats and their roosts are heavily protected by the law in the UK.

Do I need a bat survey?

Before any development work can be carried out in the UK, the developer should consider if their work is likely to impact bats or their roosts. Bats are present in rural and urban areas and will commute and forage over a wide area. If a bat survey isn't done that can be an obstacle to the project moving forward, so a bat survey is usually a wise investment for getting planning permission.

Night vision for bat surveys

Night vision technology has recently become an indispensable tool for bat ecologists. Bright lighting will disturb and potentially drive away bats, so using night vision cameras is an easy way to make sure that all the bats are seen but not disturbed.

Regulations for bat surveying

The most recent guidelines for bat surveying suggest that a special license for bat photography isn’t necessary if it is carried out using infrared night vision cameras. In 2022 the guidance was updated to more strongly recommend night vision and infrared cameras.

What type of night vision do you need?

Some bat surveyors will use trail cameras to record and monitor bat populations, more commonly night vision cameras are used. In the last few years Nightfox has began to work closely with bat ecologists to create night vision cameras that meet their specialist needs. In 2021 we released the Nightfox Red, which became popular with ecologists due to its wide field of view. Since then the Swift 2 Pro has replaced the Red, and the Whisker has been launched specifically to meet the needs of bat surveyors.

What night vision do I need to survey bats?

Our most popular product for bat ecologists is the Nightfox Whisker, named after the Whiskered bat. The Whisker is optimised for the needs of bat surveyors with a long range, a high resolution sensor and screen and a huge field of view. It can be mounted to a tripod for convenient recording. The Whisker also has an adjustable optical zoom, so you can survey a wide area and then zoom right in on a roost without losing picture quality. We’ve even included a microSD card and USB reader with every Whisker, so you can easily get footage onto your computer.

The Nightfox Swift 2 Pro goggles are also a good option. The Swift 2 Pro doesn't have a tripod mount or adjustable zoom, however it does have a high resolution sensor and it can be mounted on the users head, so you can walk around with it on. That's useful for exploring caves or walking through the woods looking for bats. However, make sure not to buy the Swift 2 (non pro) model, as it isn't capable of recording footage.

What do bat recordings from our night vision cameras look like?

The pictures and videos below show real life footage from bat surveys, captured with the Nightfox Red and Whisker. The darker footage is recorded on a Nightfox red and is of rare Bechstein bats roosting deep underground.

Bechstein bat, footage captured with Nightfox Red

This footage from a Nightfox Whisker shows the wide field of view and the detailed picture. It's able to capture a quick and small appearance of a bat in edge of the frame, it's even able to record the movement of the insects that bats feed on.



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