On a quite perfect night in late September, members of our Farmer Network arrived at Peter Bull's farm in the shadows of Beeston Castle, for our publicised 'Bat Walk' event. Our enthusiastic 'Batman', Ged Ryan, a licensed member of The Cheshire Bat Group, (together with 6 pipistrelles that he had just rescued from a felled leylandii), led us through the most extraordinary of evenings.
Cheshire, like all other counties, has a 'Bat Group', submitting local data into the Bat Conservation Trust based in London. The revelations are startling and confirm that in the last 100 years the nation's bat population has decreased by 70%.
Collectively, we laughed at our ability to readily absorb the language of our 'Batman'. We learned that bats 'scream' using high frequency calls, have excellent black and white vision, navigate and identify their prey through echolocation, form maternity roosts, that young bats are called 'pups', that bats have 1 thumb and 4 fingers, that bats warm up by 'shivering', and that the sonar sound which we likened to 'blowing a raspberry' confirmed that they had just eaten their prey! In fact, a common pipistrelle, weighing just 4-5 grams, can consume up to 3500-4000 insects in a nightly feeding frenzy!
And so, equipped with our standard-issue bat detectors and night lights, we set off around Beeston Castle to see what the night sky had to offer.
Beeston did not disappoint!
Natterers, Common Pipistrelles, Soprano Pipistrelles, Brown Long-Eared (BLEs) — we were already well on our way to recording several of the 18 identified bat species of the UK!
In fact, everyone now wants a bat detector on their 2018 Christmas List!
Might some of our farmers be installing Bat Boxes as barns are converted, and habitats change? Our Batman Ged assured us that the installation of Bat Boxes does work, but that Bat Boxes should be installed high up in trees, away from properties, in close formation, facing in different directions because of micro temperatures and ensuring that there are no obstacles in the flight path or runway to the Boxes! It is also important to leave crevices and small gaps under the eaves on future barn conversions or install a bat brick, shaped especially to allow bats to access the cavity of a property.
Our thanks to both Peter Bull for hosting our event and to 'Batman Ged' for a fantastically engaging evening.
To visit the Bat Conservation Trust, CLICK HERE.
For advice or assistance regarding a bat roost or a grounded bat, telephone Batline on 0845 1300 228 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Hoping you can all join us at our next event!
(click on each image to enlarge)