Guest blog by Hilda Doherty, Visitor Experience Officer at Belfast's Window on Wildlife


At the RSPB we’re mostly known for our work with birds, but we often host bat walks too and are helped out on many occasions by our friends in the NI Bat Group.
It’s easy to see why people are fascinated by bats. Their unique wing structure along with their light weight enables them to go to places that other land-based mammals would find unmanageable.
Their limbs are highly modified for flight, so they find it difficult to move around on the ground. When they are not flying, they rest hanging upside down from a tree branch using their sharp claws.
They roost in caves, trees or draught-free buildings. Each species has their own preferred roost, usually near its main food source. They eat insects including moths and midges, so are considered a very important natural pest controller. Echolocation aids their navigation when hunting for prey on the wing at night. Bats are creatures of habit, returning to their favourite roost each year.


Northern Ireland has eight species of bats, all protected by European law.
Apart from being incredible little animals to watch, bats are a valuable part of nature across the UK and can be a very welcome visitor to our gardens. 
Sadly, though, they’re becoming increasingly rare. Like so many other animals, a gradual loss of habitat and roost sites are making numbers decline at an alarming rate.
As old trees are cut down, buildings disturbed and mines filled in, bats are left with very few natural roost sites.
Making sure our gardens are thriving insect-rich feeding grounds for bats can help a lot. And just as we do with nestboxes for birds, we can also provide alternative roost sites for them in the form of bat boxes. You can find out more information on how to help bats via our website (http://bit.ly/BatHomes)
If you would like to immerse yourself into this fascinating nocturnal world, join us for our Belfast WOW Bat Walk on Friday 16 August for a short introductory talk followed by a night time walk using bat detectors to identify different species - including pipistrelles and Leisler’s bats - that you can see on the reserve. The walk is run in association with the NI Bat Group and tickets are £7.50 (£6 for RSPB members).


And we have another fantastic event taking place in Enniskillen in September. What better date for a ‘Bat Detectives’ guided walk than Friday the 13th?!
Tickets are £7.50 (£6 for RSPB members). To book, call 028 9064 5630 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 5pm) or email rspbnievents@rspb.org.uk.

All our events are listed here:
http://ww2.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/events-dates-and-inspiration/events/

Photo credits: Ric Else, Rahul Thanki (rspb-images.com)

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