By Stephanie Rowe, Ecologist
With peak bat surveying season just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to think about getting involved with bat monitoring.
Anyone can get involved in surveying for bats, and you can even carry one out with minimal equipment. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden while we are on lock-down, why not head out just before sunset and see what you can spot?
If you are just popping out to see what bats might be frequenting your garden, grab a blanket and begin gazing. Even with no equipment, you can try to identify any bat species you might see via flight patterns, visual features, or if seen emerging, the time of the emergence. Our most common British bat, the Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) is a usual garden suspect. While their medium to dark brown colouration might be difficult to spot at dusk, look out for fast and erratic flight patterns. Long-eared bats (Plecotus auritus) may be seen hovering after sunset. With ears nearly as long as their body, you might even be privileged enough to see a silhouette of ears!
If you want to take your surveying more seriously, here are some things you could take notes of:
The time you saw the bat
ID method (i.e. visual or via detector)
Weather condition/ temperature
General notes (did the bat emergence or was it foraging?)
If you have a bat detector handy, this is a great way to help identify between bat species. Common pipistrelles are heard at around 45kHz with a series of clicks/ wet sounding slaps, while Noctules (Nyctalus), one of the bigger bats in the UK, are heard between 20-45 kHz with a peak frequency of 25kHz. Listen out for the characteristic “chip-chop” sound and take note that these bats are often seen flying high overhead. You might find it useful to swat up on your bat sounds pre-survey-; there are loads of online resources for this and you’ll be surprised at the variety of sounds.
It’s worth sticking around for an hour after sunset to see what might be about. You could make notes on any other nocturnal species you might see or hear such as owls, fox or even deer!
You can upload your survey results to the bat conservation trust under the ‘National Bat Monitoring Programme’ section of the website. This data all helps to monitor bat populations in the UK and inform conservation methods, so just by sitting in your garden, you really can make a difference to bat conservation efforts!