Tuesday, December 6, 2022

A wildlife lover’s guide to the local bat species population

The UK is home to a wide range of bat species; there are 18 recognised bat species in the UK as of 2022. As European Protected Species, bats have a special status under UK law, and dozens of bat groups work to protect them. Wildlife and bat lovers who love to watch bats will find exciting species around the country. For example, 11 bat species are resident and breed in Lincolnshire. This guide provides information about the local bat species population and how to watch and deal with them safely.

Migration, hibernation, and peak activity period in Lincolnshire

Bat species in Lincolnshire include the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), the soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), the Nathusius’ pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii), the brown long-eared bats (Plecotus auritus), the Natterers (Myotis nattereri), the Noctule (Nyctalus noctula), the Leisler (Nyctalus leisleri), the Daubenton’s (Myotis daubentonii), and Barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus).

Bats are of the Chiroptera (hand-winged) mammals order. They can sustain flight for a long time; one essential quality that aids their migration is they migrate for food, flight space, and a place to roost. They may hibernate during winter or migrate to areas with food and warmth. Lincolnshire’s terrain and climate play an important role in bat migration and residence. Bats in Lincolnshire typically hibernate in old cellars and railway tunnels. Different bat species are commonly found hibernating together. If you want to watch bats in Lincolnshire, target the sunrise and sunset in summer when bats leave their roosts to find food, birth their young, and display their social life. You may not always notice their roosts, but you can track where they dwell by their droppings.

Some bat species migrate from the UK to other parts of Europe at certain seasons of the year. You are most likely to see the Pipistrelles as they are the most common bat species in the UK. All UK bats eat insects; most prefer to catch them mid-air, while a few prefer to hang while eating. Bats are naturally attracted to vegetation with a large insect population as it provides them with ready food. They eat between 1000 and 3000 insects every night, with nursing mother bats estimated to eat up to 4000 insects. Bats have active peak periods between March and October (or November for Pipistrelles). Their numbers peak during Autumn and Spring when they migrate across mainland Europe.

Distinctive features

Bats are typically small, with body lengths ranging between 2.5 and 6 inches depending on the species. They have excellent hearing and vision and are known to be precise in flying. Bats use echolocation to find food and to communicate. Contrary to the saying “as blind as a bat,” bats are known to see well in poor light and can easily navigate tricky terrains. They are nocturnal creatures that love to fly out just before dusk and hunt their prey all night before returning to roost just before dawn. Bats are excellent flyers and can perform different manoeuvres as they chase insects accurately.

How to help bats near you

There are legal implications if you are found breaking any law protecting the UK’s bats. You can help bats feel safe and secure by:

  • Getting a bat survey: If you are putting up or purchasing a building, you should get a bat survey done. A bat survey collects information about the bat species in a place, their roost, and other relevant information for the government. It is a mandatory requirement that may save you from legal troubles in a mishap involving bats. You cannot conduct an official bat survey report because such reports must meet a certain standard. You should contact batsurveys.co.uk for top bat survey services.
  • Learn more about local bat species: The more you know about them, the easier it is to help them protect their natural habitats and avoid human activities that impact them.
  • Do not disturb their roosts: Disturbing bat roosts can threaten their safety. You should not deliberately, wilfully, or purposefully disturb where they roost and feed.
  • Do not put up structures that obstruct their flight paths.
  • You should only handle bats when rescuing them from predators, weather conditions, or other risky situations. Remember to release the bat or call the nearest bat group to collect it.
  • If you encounter problems with bats in your house, it is impossible to remove them, but when you contact the proper authority, solutions will benefit you and the bats. Never remove bats from your home by yourself.

Threats and predators

Bats are threatened by natural events, predators, and human activities. They face significant threats from sudden violent and long storms during migration and blizzards in their roosts. Bats are also hunted by animals such as hawks, house cats, and owls. Human activities such as destroying their natural habitat, disturbing their roosts, and indiscriminate use of pesticides can also threaten bats. When faced with excessive threats, bats migrate to a better place or lose their population in droves. This is one of the areas where local bat groups are raising awareness to help people adjust to healthy activities that threaten bats.

How to watch bats

The best time to watch bats is sunset or sunrise on a warm, dry day. Bats do not usually fly out in cold, rainy weather and prefer hibernating during long winters. You do not need special equipment if you only want to watch bats; you might need a pair of binoculars for a better view. You should get a bat detector if you want to hear and count the bats. There are different models with unique advantages. Bat counters allow anyone to track bats, count them, and listen to the sounds they make without disturbing them. It is best and safest to view bats from a distance. Entering their roost or natural habitat may disturb them and put you at certain risk. It is probably a good idea to join a local bat group for the best viewing experience as they have helpful information about local bat species.


Picture: Stock.adobe.com/Roziline

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