Voluntary Bat Roost Visitors
Members holding a bat survey licence and trainees are able to participate in the Voluntary Bat Roost Visitor (VBRV) scheme in support of the National Bat Helpline. Calls to the helpline are assigned to the volunteer closest to the caller's location, who then contacts the caller to provide advice and if necessary arrange a visit. The group generally receives over 100 calls per year from the public via the helpline, most of which occur during an especially busy period in June and July when maternity roosts are active, and young bats are beginning to fly.
Many calls to the helpline come from people who find grounded or injured bats, in which case it may be possible for a volunteer, if available, to take the bat into care for rehabilitation. Bats trapped in buildings are another common problem, and volunteers will frequently visit to check for the presence of a roost as well as providing advice on care and release. Highest priority is given to calls that involve the confirmed presence of roosting bats. These include roosts discovered during building works, which often involve only small numbers of bats, and property owners seeking advice about the implications of large roosts within buildings.
Where a roost is present, the visitor will feed back information to Natural England, who will then write to the roost owner with official advice on whatever issue has arisen. Because visitors are volunteers, they can provide only limited help and in complex cases will generally refer the roost owner to a professional consultant.
Likewise, the visitor scheme does not cover advice on development of buildings with bats beyond minor maintenance and repair, which again will require a consultant.
Nevertheless, the VBRV scheme does throw up many surprising and often challenging situations, such as a recent visit in which over 30 Soprano Pipistrelles were found trapped by the smooth sides of a brass coal scuttle stored in an attic.
Being a Voluntary Bat Roost Visitor requires extensive training and significant investment of time and effort, so it's not for everybody. However the group organises many other activities in which members can participate to see bats up close and in the wild, as well as helping to promote their welfare and conservation.