Going bats?

They’re not the most popular of Britain’s wildlife. I know many people, who, while keen on wildlife in general, quail at the thought of bats. It’s hard to see why they inspire such fear. None of the species native to Britain would cause humans any harm (preferring insects instead). And most bats are happily hibernating by the time halloween comes around, with tacky bat images everywhere.

Having said that, they are quite mysterious – nocturnal mammals with crazy flight patterns, only glimpsed as silhouettes against the night sky. And some look downright weird (take horseshoe bats as an example…)

Britain is home to 16 different species of bat, and given their nocturnal nature I’m going to need some help finding them (and working out which species they are). While many mammals can be distinguished with a good look, telling the difference between bats usually requires specialist equipment to record or transpose their distinctive calls.

I have seen bats before. They nest in the eaves of my parents house, and I’ve seen them flapping around our house as well. One memorable holiday with friends we stayed in a 15th century manor house, and at dusk each day long-eared bats would fly round inside the Great Hall before heading off to feed. This was a bit of a surprise the first time it happened, but it was fantastic to get a view of them in good light. A different species of bat inhabited the outbuildings as well, so we could see them roosting upside down. But despite these close encounters, I don’t know which species I have seen. It will be interesting to find out.


While some species of British animal will require lots of travel, it turns out I’m ideally placed for bat spotting. Surrey is home to 14 bat species, so, with the help of people who know what they’re doing, hopefully I should be able to see most without having to travel too far.  Luckily, Surrey Wildlife Trust and other conservation groups organise bat walks led by experts with detectors, so this seems like a good way to start.

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