10 July 2015

Bat Man visits Basecamp!

Up here at the volunteer centre we’re proud of the work we do to help look after our special places. But for many groups a stay here involves a lot more than just working with us as there’s plenty to discover in and around our grounds.

So it was that during a recent visit by Glenburn Sports College the word was out amongst the students that Tuesday evening we were due a visit from ‘the Bat Man.’ Not the punchy kicky superhero (no need for that kind of behaviour at Basecamp), but our regional Wildlife and Countryside Advisor, John Hooson, who had kindly given up his evening to come here and talk about our resident bats.


Bat box on the Longland toilet block roof - you'd never guess there's been 190 bats counted coming out of here!

We have, we think, two colonies of Soprano Pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) at High Wray. We normally let groups know about them and have a couple of bat detectors that we lend out, but having John up here to talk to them added an extra level of interest, especially when he brought out his collection of desiccated bats picked up from various sites over the years! He even had a bat skeleton, where you could clearly see the very similar bone structure in their arms to us – they have an elbow and a forearm with four very long fingers on it which the wing is stretched between and even a little thumb.
 
They're tiny! Getting hands on
The bat skeleton with long finger bones clearly (but slightly blurrily) visible
Blowing raspberries

After a ‘bat chat’ full of interesting facts (Did you know bats aren’t blind, they actually have quite good eyesight?) it was getting gloomy enough to turn the detectors on. These clever little devices ‘listen’ for the bats’ high frequency hunting calls and convert the sound to a lower frequency audible to our ears. It wasn’t too long before we started hearing the bats fluttering past us, catching midges on the wing. On occasion we even picked up the ‘raspberry’ sound they make when they are closing in on an insect and intensify their calls.


After a fascinating couple of hours John departed in the Bat Mobile (might have been a Nissan), but the group were enthused enough that they asked to hold on to the detectors for the next night. No trace remained of the Bat Man, except for one thing – we now have our own example of Pipistrelle, which we plan to show to other groups in the future and hopefully spark off an interest in these amazing creatures.
The 'Basecamp Bat' 

By Rob Clarke, Basecamp Community Ranger

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