Fundy National Park Bat Monitoring

Bat observations in Fundy National Park had been scarce in recent years, so we were excited to see several bats roosting and flying around park headquarters last summer. The Resource Conservation team at Fundy decided that this was a great opportunity to try out our ultrasonic acoustic bat recorders.

We knew from visual observations that big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) were present, but we wanted to know if any other species made Fundy National Park home. During the late summer and fall of 2020, we installed acoustic recorders at several locations around park headquarters, including park buildings and a pond near the coast. When I collected the recording equipment and looked at the ultrasonic audio files that were generated, I was delighted to see that we’d captured many recordings of bats! Acoustic identification of bats can be tricky though, and I needed some guidance for this all-important step.

Fortunately, because I had reported our bat observations to the Bat Information Hotline (1-833-434-2287), I was already in conversation with the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC), who was developing training and guidelines for acoustic monitoring of bats in Atlantic Canada. How serendipitous! And so, last winter I attended a free webinar for bat acoustic monitoring hosted by the CWHC and pored over their Guide for Bat Monitoring in Atlantic Canada. These resources allowed me to develop the foundational skills I needed to start analyzing the audio files from Fundy National Park.

Using a program called Kaleidoscope, I was able to view spectrograms of the audio files. By looking at the frequencies, slope, and pattern of the calls (and with regular reference to the Guide for Bat Monitoring in Atlantic Canada’s Acoustic ID Decision Tree), I was able to identify the species responsible for some of the calls we’d recorded. As expected, we found a number of calls made by big brown bats, but it soon became apparent that there was more than just one species of bat in Fundy.

I was delighted to see calls from Myotis species, whose populations in this region were decimated by white-nose syndrome. It is not always possible to distinguish calls from the two Myotis species, but a handful of audio files had call characteristics indicating that both the little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus) and the northern myotis (Myotis septentrionalis) could be present in the park. The pleasant surprises continued as I analyzed more audio files – we had also captured recordings of the three migratory species known from this region: the hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus), the eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis), and the silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans). There was even evidence of the tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus), a species that has not been identified in the province since 2013.

It seemed too good to be true that I’d found evidence of all the bat species known from the province here in the park. I needed a second opinion, so I shared some files with Tessa McBurney, Atlantic Bat Conservation Project Technician with CWHC. Tessa took the time to analyze the files herself, and reached the same conclusion: that we’d captured recordings of all seven species in the park! She also added the important note that, because it has been eight years since the tri-colored bat was identified in the province, additional evidence would be necessary to confidently confirm this species’ presence.

This summer, buoyed by the success of last year’s survey, we are undertaking a more intensive study of bats in the park. We have already deployed recorders on several buildings. We plan to analyze the recordings to determine which park buildings are likely to house bats, then follow up with emergence surveys at dusk to confirm. By identifying buildings that function as bat habitat, we can ensure protection for the animals by proactively mitigating potential impacts during building use, renovation, and demolition.

We will also be collecting and analyzing acoustic data from four different habitats in the park (one of which was selected to target the tri-colored bat) following North America Bat Monitoring Program (NABat) standardized methodology. The methods specified by NABat facilitate the creation of consistent data that can be used for conservation planning at a range-wide scale. Following these standards, we plan to begin collecting stationary acoustic survey data from these four locations at the same time every year. Long-term monitoring like this will help us better understand how bats are using Fundy National Park.

We are also very excited about a citizen science program for park visitors –  Backcountry with Bats. Backcountry campers can sign out a small ultrasonic microphone to bring to their campsite. This microphone plugs into campers’ smartphones and, using a free app, can record calls from bats flying overhead and identify the most likely species in real-time. This program will provide some data from remote backcountry areas, but we also hope to generate excitement about bats and create stewardship mindsets that visitors will take with them once their stay in the park is over.

One year ago, we knew very little about the current state of bats in Fundy National Park. Most would agree that the situation seemed bleak. Today we are feeling much more hopeful, having seen evidence of so many species in the park. These findings would not have been possible without collaboration with the CWHC. Their training webinar was educational and engaging; the guide they published provided clear direction for all the work we’ve undertaken; and the correspondence I’ve had with them was both helpful and personable.

We owe the CWHC a big thank you for helping Fundy National Park’s bat monitoring program spread its wings and fly!  

Guest blog article written and photos submitted by
Megan Blaxley
Resource Management Officer
Fundy National Park

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