A few days ago I was invited along to attend a Bat Walk where I live in West London. The Bat Colony or Bat Cave as I refer to it is rumoured to be West London’s biggest Bat Colony. It’s home to 100’s of bats in particular the Pipistrelle which lives in the railway viaduct arches. It has a good network of hedgerows, fields and runs next to a canal which is great for bugs- the bats preferred and tastiest meal.
Here’s a few Bat Facts
- London’s most common bat, the Pipistrelle is only 4cm long and weighs less than a 2p coin!
- British bats only eat night-flying insects but tropical bats also eat many other foods such as fruit, flowers, frogs, fish and even other bats.
- Bats don’t build nests – they live in roofs or creep into holes and cracks in trees, walls and buildings to avoid the light.
- Many UK bats live for around five years although some have been known to live up to 30 years!
- In winter, when there aren’t many flying insects, bats hibernate in cold damp places inside buildings, caves and hollow trees. Their heart beat-drops to two beats per minute and they live off a special brown hibernation fat in their bodies.
- Bats are often found in new buildings – half of known Pipistrelle bat roosts are in houses less than 25 years old.
- Bats produce the largest babies in the animal kingdom. An 8 gram mother Pipistrelle bat may produce a 2 gram baby which is 25% of its body weight. They can only produce one baby a year.
- Bats are not blind but they ‘see’ in the dark by listening to very high-pitched echoes of their calls bouncing off objects around them.
- In Britain it is illegal to kill a bat or disturb the places where they roost.
I got to the meeting point just as the sun was setting in the evening approx 21:20.
Our Bat Guide Informed us all what Bats we should expect to see and more importantly hear, we was then given Bat detectors to use which changes the ultrasonic sounds bats use to hunt for their prey and turns it into audible “clicks” for us humans to be able to hear. Apparently some you children can hear the bat clicks without using these detectors as their young ears are still able to pick up the range of sound.
We headed down to the canal to see if we could see or hear any bats that might be swooping over the water hunting for its first meal of the evening. Turning on our bat detectors and waving them like some crazy music fan when your asked to wave your lighter in the air for the slow love song, we pointed the bat detectors in the direction of the canal and then up into the sunset sky. Sadly we couldn’t hear any bats at this location.
The group then walked down to the famous Bat Cave- under the viaduct. I held the bat detector high up in the air, I was nominated to hold the detector as I’m tall 6’3. It was here that we had our 1st sighting of Bats flying from the arches to the adjacent field. I counted 4 bats, but it was hard to say if it was 4 individual bats or just 1 or 2 as they fly so fast.
Our Bat detector was channeled into another frequency and it was at this location that we heard our 1st bat clicks. Our guide informed the group that the bats we were hearing were feeding, how do we know that? It’s due to the clicks getting faster and faster, this meaning that the bat was getting closer to the bug it was just about to hunt and eat.
We then walked around the fields and the river banks and sighted a few more bats feeding in the fields surrounding the river.
The sky got darker and the bat sightings got less and less. We called it a day and headed back to where we started.
Our Bat Guide Informed us that it was a quiet night for bats, even though it was perfect weather conditions for bats hunting-not to warm and not to cold. Infact June is the Bats Breeding time so that could be the reason for the limited bat sightings.
July, August and September are prime time for Bat Sightings.
If you’ve never done a bat walk do it…
Its not as scary as you think and no bats won’t swoop and get stuck in your hair!
More more details on the bat walk I attended,click here for more details.