Friday, 22 May 2009

Bits on Bats 1: 'How many?!!!'

This time of year is prime time for bats. All over the country, females are gathering together in their nursery roosts, sometimes in considerable numbers. Take the pipistrelle for example. (In fact take two pipistrelles since what we used to think was one species was split into two a decade or so ago). Our commonest and most widespread bats, pips like nothing more than a modern house with south or west facing boxed-in eaves.

I was called to a bungalow in the Tyne valley a while back because a bat had got into the house and kept setting the burglar alarm off. Together with another member of Northumberland Bat Group, we caught the bat and released it outside and then set about finding where it had come from. Pips are quite vocal in their roosts just before emergence and the noisy chatter coming from the boxed-in eaves gave the game away. As they began emerging just after dusk we pause for a while... four, five, pause. Then they started pouring out almost faster than we could count.
As the house owner had been pretty freaked about having a bat flying round her living room, we kept a low profile as the count went up. Finally, after the last bat had emerged, we looked at each other and tossed a coin to decide who was going to break the news to her that she had not one bat, but five hundred and ninety five.
Happily, she grew to accept them and took pride in hosting what was at that time the biggest known bat roost in Northumberland.

For lots of brilliant stuff on bats visit
(The fabulous pen drawing of the Brown Long-eared Bat, used as the logo for Northumberland Bat Group, is by John Steele one of the founder members of the group and an artist/illustrator based in Rothbury. I'll post some of my bat photos just as soon as I get those 35mm slides scanned.)

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