Autumn Bat Walk

The Surrey Wildlife Trust kindly offer one free educational activity to the conservation group each year. In our first year we decided to invite Laura Ashfield to lead an evening activity trying to engage with our local bat population.

Posted on Oct 16, 2016

After a night and day of heavy rain the sun came out in time for a group of us to gather at the Farmhouse pub to meet Laura Ashfield from the Surrey Wildlife Trust with the hope of finding some of our local bat population. 

Laura started off by giving us a very interesting talk on bats and their lifestyle, complete with Laura’s rendition of what the different bats calls and eating sound like!

Five interesting bat facts

1. Bats wings are made up of their fingers with the wing skin, connected between the finger bones

2. Bats hunt at dusk (from approximately 20mins before sunset) for a few hours then have a rest  and hunt again just before dawn

3. They eat on the wing grabbing insects from the air and munching them there and then

4. There are 18 species of bats in the UK (17 breading), which is almost a quarter of our mammal species

5. Common Pipistrelles weigh just 5 grams (same as a 20p piece), but can eat 3,000 tiny insects in just one night! 

What we found.

Laura handed out bat detectors, clever devices that enable humans to hear the bats’ high frequency calls, which are normally beyond the range of human hearing. 

We then ventured out into the surrounding woodland and lanes, to see what we could see or rather hear. Laura explained that the bats had probably not been out that morning. Insects, their prey, don’t like the rain and it had been raining for the last 12 hours. So we had a good chance of seeing them that evening. 

We started off with a walk around Tanyard Pond. Different bat species are different sizes and make different calls so a trained ear like Laura’s is able to identify which species we could hear.   With our detectors tuned to 25kHz we were able to pick up a small number of calls of the Noctule bat. This, the largest British species, is usually the first to appear in the evening.   

We then walked along Langshott Lane and out into Tanyard Meadow where by the large oak trees our detectors at 45kHz went wild with the calls of Common Pipistrelle and Soprano Pipistrelle bats – complete with the wetter slapping sounds of them eating.     

Laura then got us to turn off our detectors and listen to what to our human ear was silence, but we now knew was alive with higher pitched activity. After briefly crossing the brook and hearing more calls, we walked back through the Meadows and up Lake Lane to the pub, a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours after we had met. 

What you can do to help 

Bats are wonderful little creatures that often live in close proximity to us, using our gardens as an important source of food, water and shelter. As bats’ natural habitats are becoming rarer our gardens, which together cover a greater area than all the National nature reserves, provide an important habitat for them. There are a number of simple steps that the Bat Conservation Trust recommend to help turn your garden in to a bat haven:

  • Plant night-scented flowers
  • Build a pond
  • Let your garden go a little wild
  • Put up a bat box
  • Create linear features i.e hedgerows/treelines
  • Reduce or remove artificial lighting
  • Keep cats indoors at night  

At 3,000 insects, hopefully mosquitos, a night, I aim to make my garden as bat friendly as possible! 

Thank you to Laura for a wonderful evening. 

To find out more about bats and how you can help these amazing but vulnerable animals, visit the Bat Conservation Trust’s website where you can become a member and discover the many ways you can get involved to do your bit for bats! The website is www.bats.org.uk and the National Bat Helpline can be reached on 0345 1300 228 

Wild About Gardens Week: (http://www.wildaboutgardensweek.org.uk/about) has a range of resources and advice on how to help wildlife in your garden including bats.