Homes have been built on one Norfolk's natural beauty spots for a rare visitor.

Eastern Daily Press: Bat boxes like these have been installed in Whitlingham. Picture: ArchantBat boxes like these have been installed in Whitlingham. Picture: Archant (Image: ©Archant Photographic 2010)

The Broads Authority has invested in 30 Schwegler bat boxes to provide roosting places for the bat species, Nathusius' pipistrelle.

The Nathusius' pipistrelle has a stronghold in the Broads National Park, with Whitlingham Country Park in Trowse a hotspot for the species.

Senior ecologist for the Broads Authority Andrea Kelly said: 'We've been so encouraged by the enthusiasm and community spirit that these amazing bats have engendered.

'There has been a lot of collaborative work between volunteers, landowners and charities to monitor these bats and provide the correct habitat for them to thrive.'

Eastern Daily Press: Senior ecologist for the Broads Authority, Andrea Kelly. Picture: Broads AuthoritySenior ecologist for the Broads Authority, Andrea Kelly. Picture: Broads Authority (Image: Archant)

The bat boxes are woodpecker-proof, weather and rot resistant and have been erected in woodland around Whitlingham Broad where it is hoped that they will be found by the bats.

The boxes will be inspected to see if bats have been caught and ringed in the country park before. Any recaptures will further knowledge of its behaviour and help to continue conservation efforts.

Over the last three years, ringing of individuals has revealed the migration undertaken by Nathusius' pipistrelle. The bats migrate between the United Kingdom and north-eastern European countries such as Latvia and Lithuania.

The bats migrate south during the autumn months to escape the harsh winters and return in the spring, crossing the North Sea on their journey to and from Europe.

Ms Kelly added: 'The Schwegler bat boxes will increase the chances of recapturing ringed bats without the use of specialist equipment and will enable volunteers to reveal more information about Nathusius' pipistrelles in the Broads National Park.'

The data is being used to aid conservation efforts to protect the species and to discover more about its migratory behaviour.

The Broads Authority has taken steps since the discovery of the bat's stronghold in the Broads to work with organisations such as The Bat Conservation Trust and Norwich Bat Group to collate data for The National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project.

Despite the Broads covering 0.1% of the country, it is home to more than a quarter of the UK's rarest wildlife.

Bat facts

Nathusius pipistrelle is a species of bat that is small enough to fit into a matchbox.

It has shaggy, reddish brown fur with a dark face and ears.

It is able to fly faster than the average bat but is less manoeuvrable whilst in the air.

It feeds on a variety of insects that it catches in the air. This includes mosquitoes, mayflies and small moths.

The bats migrate from mainland Europe, flying hundreds of kilometres in autumn and spring, to England.

During the summer, while in England, it will roost in hollow trees and cracks in walls. In winter, on the continent, it will go into caves and rock fissures.

It is estimated that there are about 1,600 of the bats in England but it is likely that numbers increase in late winter and decrease at the start of spring due to migration.

Its average lifespan is up to 16 years.