Monday, 30 January 2012

Memories of Summer Bats

This post has absolutely no meaning or purpose, except that I was tidying up my hard drive and realised I had recorded several video sequences of bats in the hand over the past year or so. It's minus four outside and the only bats I have seen for a couple of months have been deep in torpor (hibernation). So, to relieve the winter blues, here are some lively, wriggling bats to enjoy...

First, a Brown Long-eared Bat (Plecotus auritus). This was one of a group of 12 in a bat box on a golf course near Edinburgh. I filmed several sequences, trying to get the bat to extend it's massive ears, but the best I could get from it was the wiggle of its ears you see here. Long-eared Bats use their ears like parabolic dishes, concentrating sounds made by prey such as harvestmen, spiders and larger moths, allowing them to minimise the intensity of their echolocation calls. Some of their prey have rudimentary hearing and this prevents them from hearing the bat's approach.

Next up is a Noctule (Nyctalus noctula). This is the biggest bat species found in the northern U.K. This female demonstrates nicely the importance of using the right hold and the correct amount of pressure when holding a bat (see the note as the end). To begin with she struggles to free herself, but she quickly realises that she is secure and relaxes.

Next is a Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus). It's not a particularly good video segment, but it sits quite nicely beside the previous segment as the Soprano is our smallest bat and looks tiny by comparison with the bruiser in the previous video!

Lastly, here is a longer segment of a male Whiskered Bat (Myotis mystacinus). This species is quite rare in this region, so I took the opportunity to record a video showing some of its morphological features. Whiskereds are hard to tell apart from Brandts Bat (Myotis brandtii) or Alcathoe's Bat (Myotis alcathoe). One of the best characters for telling them apart is their dentition, though examining the teeth of a small and annoyed animal isn't always easy! Sadly the camera I had available on that day wasn't capable of showing that level of detail, so you can't see the teeth very clearly.

Important note - disturbing bats in the United Kingdom or anywhere in the European Union is an offence unless you hold an appropriate license. In the UK these are issued by one of the statutory nature conservation organisations (Scottish Natural Heritage, Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales, etc). If you would like to learn to work with bats your best starting point is to contact your local bat group for help, advice and training.

See the Bat Conservation Trust Website for details of your local bat group: Local Bat Groups

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