24 August 2012

Going Batty

This weekend is European Bat Weekend so I thought I would post about these fascinating furry flyers.

Bats are the only mammals that can truly fly (unlike flying squirrels who just glide from tree to tree).  Contrary to Hollywood myth they won't suck your blood or get tangled in your hair.  Most bats emerge just after sunset to hunt flying insects, a pipestrelle can eat up to 3000 midges in one night!

Pipestrelle on the wing.

Bats hunt using echolocation, they 'shout' and sound is reflected from the environment, this allows the bats to fly and hunt in complete darkness.  Most humans can't hear these shouts (some children can) but bat detectors can be used to listen to bats in flight - often a bat detector is the best way to identify different species.  

 Pipestrelle on a fence  - resting after eating a massive moth!
Echolocation is incredibly accurate, Brown long eared bats pick spiders and bugs off leaves and bark in woodland.  

The landscape here in the South Lakes is perfect for bats, a good mixture of lakes, rivers, hedgerows, meadows and woodland provide good habitat and plenty of food. 
Bats often form maternity roosts where they raise their young.  Holes and cavities in old trees are perfect though they often share our houses with us. 

Alder tree with cavity- perfect for roosting bats.
I am lucky to share my loft with a Pipestrelle maternity roost of about 80 females, I think they like the loft as it stays nice and warm, you can see a row of bat faces peering from the apex of the roof in the photo below.

Pipestrelle bats peering from their roost.
An evening stroll at Tarn Hows or Wray Castle and Wray Bay should allow you to see bats in flight, still warm evenings are best as it means there will be loads of midges - not great for you but good for the bats! 

post and photos Richard
Woodland Ranger