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Thursday, 17 July 2008

Batty About Bats

I went on a bat spotting expedition last night organised by the Durham CC in conjunction with NaturalEngland. It was a truly batty experience.

We started with a slide show in the tiny Saxon Church at Escomb given by a slightly eccentric chiropterophile. He also handed round small dead ones so that we could see the truly, tiny size of them, and feel them!... if we felt inclined. The tiny pipistrelles can be fitted into a matchbox. So different from the fruit bats in Australia that flew through our garden at night to feed somewhere and sometimes stopped for a rest by hanging upside down on the Hill's Hoist (the clothes dryer). They hang down 30 to 40 cm.

This was followed by a cuppa (in Wood's Ware_Beryl, for chinaware afficionados) provided by the ladies of the village and a chat and a lesson on how to use the echolocators. The four different species of bat in the area all echo at different kilohertz levels and so can be identified by the number on the dial on the echolocator even when it's pitch dark and you can't see a thing. ( I think it's appropriate here that THING is an anagram of NIGHT).

We were able to identify all four possible bats by sound and two, maybe three, by sight. Pipistrelles, Noctules, Daubentons and Whiskered bats. The whiskered bats actually live in the roof of the Escomb church and it is wise to sweep the seats on the southern side, clean of bat droppings before you sit down. They can be seen because they fly above the tree line and can be seen against the not-quite-dark night sky. The Daubentons can be seen in the beam of a strong torch as they skim across the surface of the water and their light-coloured underbelly glistens. Our genial chiropterophile was literally jumping with excitement at the success of our expedition. Some time after 10.30 we stumbled back up the path to our cars outside the church. There were still whiskered bats coming out from under the roof and off to the river to feed...hopefully on the 3000 midges an hour that they can consume.

Look after bats and there will be less midges!!!

I'm now after an echolocator for my own use. I'm sure there are bats in the outbuildings and maybe even in the house roof. I want to know more.

Cheers Gillian


Iris Hunter said...

It took so long to find your blog again on Blotanical as your blog was so far down the list.Anyway found you now so I have added your blog to my List of 'Blogs I like a lot'. Your garden could have some Irises they would look just the ticket

joco said...

You are welcome to ours!

I am not quite as enamoured as you seem to be. Living in a 300 year-old house we are blessed (?) with quite a few of them in the roof.I suppose they have been there a lot longer than we have, so I have learned to accept them.

I used to find their pins/feathery type things inside the house and now put mesh on the windows when I leave them open overnight. Wildlife is a touch over-abundant in our garden these days. Some of it I like, and some I merely accept.
I just wish some of the critters would offer to mow the lawn at times ;-)