British Waterways bat twaddle

It’s a familiar theme: wildlife surveys which are actually nothing more than PR puffs.

Here’s today’s latest on bats from the annual British Waterways wildlife survey.

I’m sure there’ll be people out there who say ‘it’s just a bit of fun’ or ‘it doesn’t matter, as long as wildlife gets attention. Don’t be such a boring git’.

But actually it does matter: it’s pretty close to lying; it misinforms people (does the Beeb know that?) and it’s certainly a poke in the eye for the thousands of people who take the trouble to join in with carefully organised surveys.

And its a bit of a con for the ordinary people who did it. Would they be amused if they found out that they survey they were told would tell us something about the state of wildlife was actually just a load of rubbish?

And just to reherse why surveys like this are meaningless: the numbers of people doing them year to year varies – so maybe the increase is just because more people were looking; and the times they do the surveys (very important in this case – given we’re talking about bats) are purely down to luck – so maybe this year more people went out in the nice warm evenings than last year and – lo and behold – they saw more bats; and the places surveyed are just places that are close to peoples home – so maybe these are all the worst most urban, most polluted canals with the fewest bats, whereas if people went out to some nice clean canals (well, of course that’s impossible), lets be realistic and say some polluted canal running through an old wood with lots of bat roosts, they’d see even more bats. Or maybe, and you couldn’t make this up, because this year the survey was focussing on bats (not like the previous year when it was bees) so people looked out more for bats.

For all these reasons – surveys like this with no attention to the design of the survey are junk.

Actually what the survey tells us is the 9% more people sent in records of seeing a bat than last year. And that means…..well, 9% more people sent in a record of seeing a bat.

And not that there are 9% more bats.




6 Responses to “British Waterways bat twaddle”

  1. PondDragon Says:

    I inadvertently commented yesterday on an old post about snails, so I thought I’d repost it here where you might see it:

    Having followed your account of your pond’s construction and progress, it would be interesting if you could post some recent photos of it now and over the summer. Did it dry out completely this year?

    Good post about the bat survey though – I see the 9% ‘rise’ got a brief mention in The Times, with the suggestion that the recent cold winter had benefitted bats.

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Hi Giles

      I will write about the ponds – I’ve been having a hectic few months, mostly doing fundraising and other organisation high priorities (and trying to get on with the pondy New Naturalist).

      You have to admire BW’s PR team – they are good at making a very little go a long way.


  2. Jonathan Cranfield Says:

    Cold winters benefit lots of animals which ‘overwinter’. A good cold spell means that snakes and lizards come out nice and fat for the spring mating period – well that how it seems

  3. Lee Brady Says:

    I wonder if BW got more than 9% extra hits on their website…

    Jeremy, did I read that right? The NN Ponds, Pools and Puddles is still on the cards?!

  4. avkq47 Says:

    Thank you for your post about bat twaddle – really made me laugh!! Good to know there is someone out there with some basic common sense. All that PR and rubbish they put out, well … I junked my TV 6 years ago, and haven’t missed it one tiny bit!! Papers and world service on the radio. It is as bad as the RSPB last autumn(?) claiming the reason falcons attack small dogs in (london) parks is because they are seen as a threat?!! Took me a week to stop laughing at the thought that small dogs are not an easy prey but killed because they somehow threaten the falcons!!

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