Today is Bat Appreciation Day and to do just that, we’re experiencing them in our gardens and sharing a sneak preview of the latest Nature’s Home magazine with tips on how you can help bats at home or away...
How you can help bats: An exclusive Nature’s Home summer edition sneak preview
Magical and mysterious, bats are our companions on clement summer evenings. But they’re in need of help. Nicola Chester explains what we can do…
Watching bats flitter in traceable patterns on warm summer nights is mesmerising. Bats are indicator species of healthy environments and are fully protected by law. But threats to bats are many and varied. All UK bats are insectivores, so pesticides and habitat loss deeply affects them, as does development, roads that fragment populations, intensive farming and light pollution. Here are some things we can do…
Feed the bats! - From a balcony trellis to a patio pot, postage-stamp yards to big gardens, include pale-coloured, night-scented plants such as honeysuckle, nicotiana, stocks, or jasmine that will attract night-flying insects. A pond, however small, has drinking and insect value. Keep bats safe Keep cats indoors at night and don’t use pesticides, herbicides or sticky fly paper. Do you really need that outdoor light? Light pollution is highly disruptive to roosts, bat-foraging pathways and commutes.
Bats and the law - It is a criminal offence to disturb, damage, destroy or obstruct bats and their roosts. Bats use buildings to roost or hibernate in, and as maternity roosts and nurseries. Whole colonies can be wiped out by building work, so great care and a survey is imperative. Get advice on what to do if you know or suspect bats are threatened, from the Bat Conservation Trust.
Bat ﬁrst aid - If you find an injured bat, avoid handling it directly. Gently scoop it up by putting a tea towel over it, or use gloves. Put it in a box with a perforated lid, a tea towel for shelter and water in a bottle cap. Then contact the Bat Helpline (BCT on 0345 1300 228) or a vet.
Enjoy bats - If you’re a member of the RSPB you’re already helping bats, but if not you can join us to help (and receive your copy of Nature’s Home magazine!). Take the time today to sit out in the garden, or walk near a hedgerow or water at dusk, and watch. One of our team did just that this week…
Feeling inspired, RSPB's Luke Phillips took some time to appreciate bats in his garden...
So happy Bat Appreciation Day everyone! I find bats fantastically interesting. I don’t get to see them often, so their world has a certain magical mystery about it. After reading about them in the most recent Nature’s Home magazine I took to the garden a few nights ago to see (or hear!) what I could find.
Armed with my rather underused bat detector and my limited knowledge of bats, I waited and watched the skies as the sun set (a wonderful thing to do in itself). I remember during some of my early experiences with bats that my young ears could hear the echolocating calls of one particular species found in the UK. I still vividly remember my first encounter with this species at RSPB Radipole Lake in Weymouth and this memory was suddenly brought back to me as I picked up a familiar high-pitched sound overhead. I looked up and saw a silhouette against the sunset - a noctule bat - the UK’s largest!
Echolocating is the fascinating ability bats have to help locate their food. What they’re doing is shouting and listening to the echoes bouncing back off objects like food (although for a much more comprehensive explanation have a look at the Bat Conservation Trust website). The noctule bat uses echolocation at a lower frequency than other bats, hence why I can hear them, although I’m well aware that my bat hearing days are numbered as I get older. At least for now... I can still make the most of it!
Following the excitement of still being able to hear noctule bats I was about to call it a night and head back indoors for a glass of wine - but then, something caught my eye. The bat detector was switched on and should have been picking up calls from any bat nearby, but I could see one and not hear anything. Its behaviour was extraordinary. I’d never seen this species before and watched for a few minutes as it thoroughly investigated every nook and cranny between the branches of an old oak tree, with amazing precision. I was still getting no more than the occasional blip on the bat detector. It all remained a mystery as I headed back inside.
I had to follow up my encounter - so I got in touch with a friend who knows a lot more about bats than I do. I explained what I’d seen and how I’d never seen anything like this before. He told me what I saw was most likely a brown long-eared bat or, as it’s sometimes nicknamed, the whispering bat. Its echolocation call is the hardest to detect and this bat would have been searching for moths and other insects amongst the new leaves which are currently bursting out of buds on oak trees. A truly memorable encounter.
I feel spoilt by what I witnessed in my own garden and encourage you to head outdoors if you can this evening and see if you too can appreciate some of these fantastic, mysterious creatures.
If you've got any bat detecting experiences you'd like to share with us - please send your stories and images to: email@example.com
Images: Pipistrelle bat by Chris Shields - RSPB Images/ Daubenton's Bat by Nick Tomlinson/ Luke Phillips with bat detector and bat tree by Luke Phillips.
A couple of years ago I used to live in Sydney, Australia. Something that really amuses me was the size of the fruit bats. Every night you could see bat the size of little dogs flying through the city as they own it. I love that about the place. This are incredible creature that deserves all our protection and care.
Tomas - Bricklayer Lake Macquarie
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