WILDLIFE experts have discovered three rare bats in woodland at Marbury Country Park and one of the tiny creatures appears to be pregnant.

Nathusius’ pipistrelles are one of the rarest species of bat found in the UK and the discovery of three of the animals has excited members of bat groups across the country as this could be the first recorded breeding of this species in the north west.

Bat boxes were installed by Cheshire Bat Group as part of a Bat Conservation Trust pilot study into the rare bat species.

Nathusius’ pipistrelle is a migratory species and prefers habitats adjacent to woodlands around lakes and wetlands, leading researchers to investigate the woodland next to Budworth Mere.

Members of South Lancashire and Cheshire bat groups found the three bats and now suspect that one of the females may be pregnant.

Steve Parker, who was the first to discover the bat at Marbury, said: “Cheshire Bat Group has been surveying the site for a number of years and has recorded Nathusius’ pipistrelles flying along the tree lines on many occasions so it’s great for South Lancashire Bat Group to be able to work in partnership with them and find some of these amazing and rare bats.

“Finding three in the first box I opened was well above my expectations and a great start to this important national project.”

Charlotte Harris, chief executive of Cheshire Wildlife Trust, said: “This is absolutely fantastic news from one of our most popular nature reserves and is testament to the hours of dedication that our local bat groups put into careful monitoring each year.

“Without this type of research we wouldn’t know about many of the rare species that are making homes on the sites that we manage and the specialist skills of the bat groups are invaluable to us fully understanding the full range of wildlife on our doorstep.”

Cheshire Wildlife Trust has a wide range of events planned for the summer and more information is available by ringing 01948 820728 or by visiting cheshirewildlifetrust.org.uk.