A bat has been discovered on St Kilda for the first time.
Despite wildlife and environment experts scouring the island – located over 41 miles west of the Benbecula – the tiny mammal was spotted by tourists who came ashore on a day trip to the world heritage site.
It is believed to be the most north westerly part of Europe a bat has been discovered.
St Kilda already has it own unique type of field mouse as well as Soay sheep which are not found elsewhere.
Visitors quizzed St Kilda ranger, Paul Sharman, about bats and he confidently assured them they didn’t exist at all on the island.
He was surprised and delighted when they showed him the photographic proof.
They had snapped a tiny reddish-brown coloured nathusius pipistrelle bat – about the size of a sparrow – sunbathing on a stone bothy on Hirta, the main island in the archipelago.
He said: “Imagine my surprise when not just one, but three visitors that day showed me photos of a bat they had seen resting on a cleit.
“In spite of teams of naturalists having pored over Hirta for years there is always something new to discover.
Lindsey MacKinlay, nature advisor for the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), which operates St Kilda as a nature reserve, is thrilled with the discovery.
He said: “This is absolutely brilliant. Its fantastic. We are well chuffed.
“Despite giving people bat detectors on St Kilda for years, we have never found a bat before.”
He was pleased the tourists took a photo otherwise they may have never been believed.
Now the NTS will “have a closer look and do a more systematic survey” to see if more bats are on the island, he said.
The plan is to deploy an ultrasound receiver which can identify their species through the pitch of their chirps and calls when hunting insects.
Anne Youngman, Scottish officer with the Bat Conservation Trust said: “This is a really exciting find.
“But we don’t think it lives there all the time as it prefers freshwater and woodland – not the saltwater on (treeless) windswept St Kilda.”
She said it was probably a migratory bat which got lost and blown off course.
The nathusius pipistrelle bat is about the size of a human thumb. Small colonies have started to reside in the UK.