Halloween has come around (although the shelves in the supermarkets try to tell us it is Christmas already) and soon witches, ghosts and vampires will be populating our planet for this one night of the year. Spiderwebs and bats will be decorating the….. but wait, what is that? Rewind…. Bats… are seen by people as these scary, bloodsucking creatures that haunt you in the night…..? Yet during my traineeship with Ambios in Devon I got to experience quite a different side to these actually unique and super interesting creatures!
Did you know that bats are the only mammals that can fly? And not only that, whilst you have probably heard of their ability to use echolocation to navigate, did you know that each species of bat has their own unique call that distinguishes them from all other bats?
During my Traineeship with Ambios I got to choose my very own project to work on and decided to look at the bats on the farm a little closer. I got handed a bat detector and off I went! Walking through the dark forest and along the river at night, I got super excited every time the detector started to make noises! At the beginning, I was baffled as to this foreign language in which the detector was speaking to me (and honestly, some bat calls do sound like alien communication on a detector, just check out these Horseshoe bats having a chat here! ) But with time and practise I got better at telling which sound belonged to which bat and at the end I was even able to decipher the weird signs that bat sounds paint when you put their calls onto your computer screen:
Here you can see Soprano Pipistrelles, whose calls at about 55 kHz look a bit like hockey sticks. Those calls are used for navigation and hunting, while those up and down lines at lower frequencies are actually so-called social calls – bats talking to each other!)
The most exciting part was to find three rare species of bats on the farm (Lesser and Greater Horseshoe-bats as well as Barbastelles)! Yet, this was also the hardest part: having to face how it is not the bats that are the monstrous creatures of the night they are often portrayed as, but how it is actually us humans who are at least partly responsible for declining bat numbers across certain species. Development causes loss of feeding habitats, affects roosts and flight lines, and a lack of insects to feed on have caused bat numbers to decrease.
But, there is a lot we can do to help these little cute creatures:
We were building bat boxes on the farm, and whether you build them yourself or buy them, these can be hung up almost anywhere to give bats a new home 😊 If you want to get active and go on some bat walks with a detector yourself, that’s not a problem at all either as for example the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project are welcoming volunteers to help with their yearly bat survey, as well as other bat groups across the UK offering lots of opportunities to get involved.
Personally, I will certainly not have had my last encounter with these fascinating creatures and am really thankful that through Ambios I got the chance to venture into their intriguing world for the first time and learn so much about their lives and ways.