Activity Patterns of Bats During the Fall and Spring Along Ridgelines in the Central Appalachians

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Many central Appalachian ridges offer high wind potential, making them attractive to future wind-energy development. Understanding seasonal and hourly activity patterns of migratory bat species may help to reduce fatalities at wind-energy facilities and provide guidance for the development of best management practices for bats. To examine hourly migratory bat activity patterns in the fall and spring in Virginia in an exploratory fashion with a suite of general temporal, environmental, and weather variables, we acoustically monitored bat activity on five ridgelines and side slopes from early September through mid-November 2015 and 2016 and from early March through late April 2016 and 2017. On ridges, bat activity decreased through the autumn sample period, but was more variable through the spring sample period. In autumn, migratory bat activity had largely ceased by mid-November. Activity patterns were species specific in both autumn and spring sample periods. Generally, migratory bat activity was negatively associated with hourly wind speeds but positively associated with ambient temperatures. These data provide further evidence that operational mitigation strategies at wind-energy facilities could help protect migratory bat species in the Appalachians; substantially slowing or locking wind turbine blade spin during periods of low wind speeds, often below where electricity is generated, and warm ambient temperatures may minimize mortality during periods of high bat activity.

Appalachians, eastern red bat Lasiurus borealis, hoary bat Lasiurus cinereus, migration, seasonal acoustic activity, silver-haired bat Lasionycteris noctivagans, wind energy