A citizen science project in the North York Moors made 390,000 confirmed bat recordings, and picked up a species of bush cricket never previously documented by the survey.

The Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme saw members of the public place wildlife acoustic detectors within the River Rye catchment of the National Park and Howardian Hills National Landscape.

At least eight bat species were confirmed among the 390,000 recordings between May and September this year, with the Common Pipistrelle topping the chart at more than 200,000 recordings.

Alongside bats, the study picked up several other mammals and insects, including a species of bush cricket never previously found by the survey.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Brown long-eared bat

The project, led by the North York Moors National Park Authority, is working to conserve the River Rye catchment area and reconnect people with its wildlife.

Since 2020, the scheme has been working with a dedicated group of volunteers and citizen scientists to conduct bat monitoring. Anyone can sign up to collect the equipment and set it up in a pre-arranged location where it is left for four nights. The devices are triggered when they detect ultrasound, such as the echolocation calls of bats, but also noises from certain other animals, including shrews, rats, moths and crickets.

These "accidental" recordings are still analysed and identified by the researchers to allow them to spot any patterns or changes over time.

In return for their work, volunteers receive information about which species were recorded during their study and the results are added to both the Ryevitalise Partnership project and to national research led by the British Trust of Ornithology (BTO).

Toby Panter, Ryevitalise conservation field officer, said: “This year has been our biggest survey to date, covering 141 different locations in the River Rye catchment and recording over 144 different nights between May and September. It’s great to see strong results for species such as the distinctive brown long-eared bat and for Daubenton's bat – known as the water bat due to is preference for hunting insects over rivers.

“As well as bats we recorded two different shrew species, and making its debut this year was Roesel’s bush-cricket, which was heard in not just one, but four locations and across eight different nights.”

Darlington and Stockton Times: Roesels cricket

Crickets first made an appearance in the survey in 2022, when the Long-winged Conehead cricket was detected in two locations. Experts say the fact that the Long-winged Conehead was found again in 2023, alongside a second new cricket species for the area, suggests the national distribution of these insects is undergoing a significant change.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Long winged conehead

Data from the North York Moors National Park supports other studies and observations which have reported cricket populations spreading northwards.

Before the 1980s, Roesel’s Bush-cricket was only found at a small number of marshy sites in the east of England, however it has since spread rapidly inland and in all directions. The Long-winged Conehead was once considered so rare in Britain it featured on the Red Data List but is now quite common in southern and eastern England. It is widely accepted that climate change is responsible for the recent success of these species, although an increase in uncut road verges and other scrubby grasslands may have helped the spread.

Toby continued: “The only slight disappointment is that we didn’t hear our rarest species, the Alcathoe bat this year, but they’re very much known for being an elusive and mysterious species. There’s always an element of luck required in these surveys, and we hope to hear it again in 2024.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Alcathoe bat

“It’s fantastic to be building up this picture over time of both bat species and other wildlife present in the Ryevitalise project area. Such data can help guide future conservation decisions, such as where we should be building bat boxes, increasing food sources, or improving habitat connectivity for other species.”