SOMERSET Wildlife Trust is asking the residents of Taunton for their help in tracking down some rare and elusive animals that wander the waterways of the town in the hours of darkness.

As part of the Routes to the River Tone project the Trust will be surveying the river and is appealing for volunteers to take part, with a training event to be held on Friday, July 11.

The survey will involve working in small teams of three to four people, walking a section of the town’s waterways and recording the bats to build up a map of bat activity across the town.

Volunteers will receive full training, with the initial session taking place on the evening of Friday, July 11 at the Trust’s new headquarters at 34 Wellington Road and all the equipment needed to carry out the survey will be provided.

By understanding which parts of the waterways bats are using, the Trust can work with its partners to ensure areas that are important for bats are safeguarded, and to make changes to less favourable areas, improving them for bats, and other wildlife.

Routes to the River Tone Project Manager Nick Tomlinson from Somerset Wildlife Trust said: “Unseen by most, bats regularly feed along Taunton’s waterways, hoovering up insects as they go but because they are on nature’s night shift, and rarely seen by us humans, we don’t know as much about them as we’d like to.

"We are looking for volunteers to help us carry out night time surveys across the town to discover where these amazing creatures live and feed.

“To see bats flying, silently, across the water’s surface is pretty cool, but when you turn on a bat detector the air explodes with sound; sound we can’t normally hear because it’s too high for our ears to pick up, so the ‘silent world of bats’ is not silent at all!

“Bats have often got quite a bad press but, in fact, far from being the terrifying blood sucking monsters portrayed in horror movies, bats are a really important part of Taunton’s wildlife.

"In a typical night they will make a meal of hundreds of thousands of insects, many of which would love to make a meal out of us! Pipistrelles, for instance, eat around 15 times their own body weight in midges and mosquitoes over the summer, that’s equivalent to 3,500 full grown men a year. And, a lot less midges to bite us!”

Routes to the River Tone is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The project aims to engage local people with the wildlife on their doorstep and, with their help, to improve the town’s green spaces and waterways which provide important wildlife habitat for rare species like water vole and four species of bat including brown long-eared and lesser horseshoe bats.

It is a partnership project led by Somerset Wildlife Trust and including Taunton Deane Council, Environment Agency, Somerset County Council, Natural England, the Canal and Rivers Trust and the Taunton Deane Area group of Somerset Wildlife Trust.

Taking place over the summer, the night time surveys are great fun and if you would like to get involved, or simply want a bit more information, then contact Nick on 01823-652433 or e-mail