The LIFE+ Horseshoe Towers project envisages the construction of new infrastructure for bats. This is due to the fact that the existing facilities in which breeding colonies shelter are increasingly remote or isolated from the places where horseshoe bats hunt by flying among vegetation, mainly inside the forest, as well as in rocky areas. The new infrastructure, located in the forest, will create a full-fledged habitat ensuring the safety of the breeding colony and easy access to food and transitional shelters where bats can rest or survive difficult moments without having to return to the colony. In some places, it is also necessary to provide safe and high-quality hibernation places.
Special towers for breeding sites will be built in 10 places in southern Poland. Ten huts, i.e. transitional shelters, will be placed around each of them. All facilities will also take into account the habitat requirements of other species of bats and some other animals.
To ensure that the new facilities are used by bats, they must be placed near suitable feeding grounds and near the endangered, hard-to-secure colonies. We search for places that knowledge about horseshoe bat biology identifies as suitable habitats based on maps, information from land managers (foresters) and searching for desirable elements during the day. Naturalists then check at night whether the bats share their valorization and whether they use the designated places. Field work uses automatic recording methods and observations carried out by 4-5 observers using specialized equipment – thermal imaging camera, ultrasound detectors, recorders. Observations and recordings collected in the field are then analyzed and an accurate map is obtained – a picture of horseshoe activity in a given area.
The verification helps to pre-determine the optimal locations of planned facilities and create a Habitat Assessment Report for each of the areas. The next step is to confront these arrangements with forest plans and the feasibility of performing works in difficult mountain terrain.
In spring and summer 2022, the project team carried out research for the first two Natura 2000 sites: PLH020096 Góry Złote (hosted by Forest District Bardo) and PLH020004 Góry Stołowe (Forest District Zdroje). The locations of both towers and the accompanying transitional shelters have been designated and agreed, and the first objects will appear in the forest this year.