One of UK's rarest bats discovered roosting in a Somerset church
One of the UK's rarest bats, the grey long-eared bat, has been roosting in a church in Somerset.
The discovery was made in a church in the Blackdown Hills on the border with Devon.
It is only the second record of the species that the volunteers for the National Bats in Churches survey have uncovered.
DNA analysis of droppings found in the church confirmed the presence of the bat, alongside the more common brown long-eared bat and serotine.
In 2020, DNA evidence also found the species in a church in Devon.
Claire Boothby, training and surveys officer at Bats in Churches, said: "The National Bats in Churches Survey is allowing us to make exciting new discoveries about bats and their use of churches, including the confirmation of one of the rarest British mammals in a Somerset church.
"As we know so few grey long-eared bat roosting sites, each confirmation of the species is precious.
"Through the National Bats in Churches Survey we’ve gained records from more than 700 churches across the country, showing the power of citizen science.
"Thanks to our team of volunteers, our research will give us needed knowledge to better conserve bats and provide information and support for churches."
There are thought to be only around 1,000 grey long-eared bats in England.
Its favourite foraging habitat, unimproved grassland, has declined by 92% in the last century, according to Bat Conservation Trust.
The grey long-eared bat is so vulnerable it was made a target species for the Back from the Brink project, a nationwide partnership to save some of England’s most threatened species from extinction.
Carol Williams, director of conservation at Bat Conservation Trust, said: "It’s very encouraging to be aware of more records coming in from Somerset.
"When there are so few of this species left in England, knowing where the remaining animals are is of great importance."