Monday, August 04, 2008

Bats

roosting batsBats are among my favourite regular garden visitors. Other people may listen for the first cuckoo of spring, or look out for the returning swallows, but for me the first bat flying past my bedroom window marks the beginning of the warm season, and their disappearance tells me winter is on the way.

I sleep with my bedroom curtains open. My bedroom backs on to open fields and is not overlooked at all so I don't worry about privacy. I love to look at the stars or simply the clouds, although the moon is never visible from my bedroom window which is a bit sad. I like to be woken by the sunrise and in particular I like to watch the bats. I wish I could show you a photograph but they're incredibly fast and almost impossible to photograph on the wing, and I don't know where they roost so I can't show you a photograph of them resting. The (rather fuzzy) photo I have included is of some bats we saw roosting in a souterrain in Craggaunowen in Ireland last year.

I don't know what species they are. There are 17 species of bat in Britain, which is about a quarter of all our mammal species. The most common is the common pipistrelle, which is also the smallest at less than 2 inches long. The rarest is the greater mouse-eared bat which was thought to be extinct in this country but was recently discovered living in the south of England. The largest British bat is the noctule, but even this is only about 3 inches long and weighs less than 1 1/2 oz (40g). British bats are diddy, although their wingspans make them look bigger than that.

Sadly, like much of our native wildlife, British bats are in trouble. A combination of loss of habitat and insecticides wiping out their prey has caused their numbers to decline sharply. Now all British bats are protected by law. It is illegal to harm them or disturb them, or muck about with their roosting sites.

I've recently discovered you can get bat detectors - electronic devices which can hear the bats' sonar sounds and can identify the bat from the frequency of its squeak. They're not cheap, but maybe my local bat conservation group or wildlife trust can lend me one to identify my bats. I'll be looking into that and I'll tell you how I get on.

If you want to find out more about British bats, visit the Bat Conservation Trust.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

"It is illegal to harm them or disturb them, or muck about with their roosting sites."

I wish I could find someone who speaks cat to tell Bramble this. He hasn't caught any yet this year, but last year he caught three of the poor little things.

We managed to save one and I put it on the shed and kept the cats in until it had gone away. At first I had a lot of trouble latching it onto the shed under the eaves, because I was trying to put it there upside down (from the bat's point of view).

They're so tiny and fragile and light, like teeny weeny raggedy umbrellas.

BTW, this is Geraldine. Blogger won't recognise my LJ ID, again.

Carolyn said...

I adore bats! I just wish that they didn't move quite so fast as I would like to spend time identifying them.

Anonymous said...

Really liked your article on bats! Each month on my site peazyshop we raise money for a different charity http://www.peazyshop.co.uk/peazyshop-fundraising/

this month I have decided to raise money for the bat conservation trust, so will keep you posted on how much we raise.

Anyone can help out for free, just visit the link above and then visit one of our sponsors sites.

Ross

Killi said...

I love bats & I've handled 3 illegally & 1 under supervision. One year we had a bat walk in the village & the bats hid for the entire walk! But our guide had brought a couple of bats with him to show us.

In the local church we had pipistrelles & there was a dead greater horseshoe squidged by the big heavy door. It was in the church that I handled my first bat ~ a pipistrelle &, I think, quite young as it fell on my co-cleaner, then lay on the floor whilst we were trying to clean the church. I touched it & told it that I wasn't supposed to pick it up & would it please fly back to the belfry so I could vacuum where it was lying. It listened to me, then flew back to its roost. The 2nd bat lay dead on the pavement & I can't remember what it was, but I picked it up & carried it out of the way.

The last bat I had close dealings with was a long-eared bat. There was an old waxed jacket hanging in 1 of my sheds on my Irish smallholding when I moved in & I was studying it to see if it were usable & this gorgeous long-eared fell out. He'd been roosting/hibernating in the jacket, but after being disturbed he didn't stay around, although I did try to put him back up the sleeve (in the end he stayed a while in the pocket).

Bats are clever beasts ~ a neighbour had a sensor-controlled light on their garage & the bats would fly into the beam to switch it on & then graze on the insects that gathered. I spent many evenings watching them do that. There were also Daubenton's bats over the rhynes in Somerset that flew just above the water to scoop up the insects there. I want bat boxes here to make sure I have them around me to deal with the hated midges

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