A BIDSTON-based nature group is working to improve bat conservation in Wirral, thanks to new sound detection equipment.

Bat numbers are declining in Wirral, mainly due to the loss of winter habitats.

Conservationists have been trained to survey for bats but are unable to accurately identify their species or population size without the correct equipment.

The Merseyside and West Lancashire Bat Group, who operate from Tam O'Shanter Urban Farm on Bidston Hill, will use the new equipment to establish the population sizes of eight of the 17 different British bat species found in the area - enabling them to improve habitats in the area.

Funding for the bat sound detection software was provided by a Green Machine Unilever grant of £500.

Unilever fund the Community Foundation's Green Machine fund in Wirral.

Group leader Nic Harding said: "Bat numbers have been falling for some time now. We've been working hard to find bat colonies in the area, but without sound detection equipment we can only locate them.

"To help conservation we need to identify species and population size. Once we determine this we will be able to track colony size and explore ways of improving their numbers."

Identifying species and colony size will help support planning and building applications to renew and improve habitats.

Merseyside and West Lancashire Bat Group also provide education and training for members of the public interested in bat conservation.

Mr Harding said: "Bats are traditionally associated with fear, but they're incredible creatures. We find that when people understand that numbers are declining they want to get more involved."

Meanwhile, the CRF still has cash grants to give away to help environment-related community groups. Nicky Steele, grants manager, said: "The Green Machine in Wirral has already helped more than 35 groups run environmental improvement projects.

"It's been very well received by community groups and we want to keep that momentum going.

"We'd like to hear from more community groups with ideas on improving the environment, whether it's cleaning up your street or doing a landscaping project in a shared area."

Funding is provided by Port-Sunlight based Unilever. As the key partner for the Green Machine in the Wirral, Unilever wants to encourage as much environmental work as possible through the fund.

Elaine Hazlehurst, external affairs coordinator, at Unilever said: "The Green Machine Fund is a great opportunity for groups in Wirral who are keen to improve the local environment.

"Over the past three years we've been able to support some very useful and interesting projects and we want to encourage people to develop their ideas and apply for a Green Machine Unilever grant."

The Green Machine Fund has already distributed more than £100,000 across Merseyside.

Previous grants have supported a social enterprise to recycle cans, a project to regenerate a disused piece of land, a tool bank for residents, allotment projects and a host of other environment based projects.

Community Foundation for Merseyside connects donors with local causes that make a real difference on Merseyside.

By providing grants to community groups, the Foundation helps them build a better, stronger Merseyside for future generations.

For more details about the Community Foundation for Merseyside and Green Machine grants contact 0151 966 4604 or visit www.cfmerseyside.org.uk.