Last year I had quite a few bat adventures. I (eventually) managed to see five different species of bats, but frequently struggled with not being able to distinguish the calls captured by my bat detector. I could tell it was a species that I didn’t have ticked off my list, but not which one. So this year, I decided I needed to learn more about bats to help me in my quest.
This week I attended a Bat Ecology course, hosted by Surrey Wildlife Trust and taught by a member of Surrey Bat Group.The course was fascinating. A particular highlight was getting to see some bats up close, as there were a few captive bats present (who can’t be released back to the wild as they can’t fly properly). I learnt a lot about the different species of bats, and how to distinguish between them if I get a good view of them (when they’re not flying about in the dark). I was also reassured to learn that it’s not just me being rubbish at interpreting the sounds from my bat detector – even experts can’t tell distinguish between the Myotis bat species (Daubenton’s, Bandt’s, Whiskered, Alcathoe, Natterer’s, and Bechstein’s) using just a basic detector like mine.
So, having been reassured that it’s not (just) my incompetence that’s stopped me being able to identify some of the bats I’ve come across, I need to come up with a new way of seeing those species that I haven’t yet ticked off my list. I think I may need to start volunteering on some bat surveys.
But that’s not going to stop me walking around at night waving my bat detector in the air. Surrey’s a great place to see bats, as most of the 17-18 (it’s complicated!) British bat species are resident here. And using a detector to eavesdrop their hunting is a good way of getting a glimpse into their night time audio world, so different from our own.
One thing I’ve known from the start of my British Animal Challenge is that, to do it, I’m going to need help. While there are some types of animals it’s fairly straightforward to stumble across and identify, others are more complex. For example, bats. There are around 15 different species of bat in the UK, and they’re nocturnal. Even once I find some, I’m going to need expert help identifying which species they are. And with rare animals, I may well need help as to where to find them. Most distribution information in books is at a level that is too general to be that helpful – even if you know a certain species is present in a certain type of habitat in a county, that’s still a lot of area to cover, when the species may only be in very specific sites…
So part of my research has been around finding out who might help me on my quest. I’ve been surprised to find how many different local wildlife groups there are. I’m already a member of Surrey Wildlife Trust, Surrey Mammal Group and Surrey Dormouse Group. I’ve now joined Surrey Amphibians and Reptiles Group, and the form to join Surrey Bat Group is printed off as well. I’m sure there are many other groups I’ve yet to discover.
These local groups all exist to protect the species they are interested in. Their activities include habitat work, advising landowners, carrying out surveys to help research the animals, and educating people about the species. They are generally run by volunteers, and include members with years of experience and great expertise. If you’re interested in wildlife, why not look for a local group who work with the species you’re interested in? You may be surprised by how many there are out there! I’ve learnt lots from volunteering with Surrey Dormouse Group (and not just about dormice!), and I’ve contributed to gathering data that will help us learn more about this threatened species.
I hope that over the next few years I’ll learn more about many other animals, and contribute in a small way to their protection.
This is my diary of the wildlife where I live in Oxfordshire, and sometimes the places I visit. I am a 15 year old young naturalist with a passion for British wildlife, especially Badgers and Hares. I have been blogging since May 2013 and you can read my old blog posts at www.appletonwildlifediary.blogspot.co.uk