Thursday, 22 August 2013

Avon Wildlife Safari Day 35 - Bats at Elm Farm

Summertime is the best time to see bats, our only flying mammal, as they come out to forage at dusk. Sadly bats have suffered a severe decline in the last century but with 17 known breeding species in the UK that's almost a quarter of our 65 species of native and introduced mammals living in the UK, (not including domesticated animals or marine mammals which may visit seasonally).
Brown long-eared bat in gloved hand
photo: Brown long eared bat -
Bats play an important role in many environments around the world. Some plants depend partly or wholly on bats to pollinate their flowers or spread their seeds, while other bats also help control pests by eating insects. In the UK, some bats are ‘indicator species’, because changes to these bat populations can indicate changes in aspects of biodiversity. Bats might suffer when there are problems with the insect populations that make up their food or when habitats are destroyed or poorly managed. Avon Wildlife Trust's Browns Folly nature reserve is a wonderful home for several species of bat due to the underground tunnels that create safe roosting spots, surrounded by woodlands and wildflower rich grassland and work is carried out by a team of volunteers and the reserve manager  to maintain these habitats and keep the bat population healthy. The wildflowers attract invertebrates that the bats like to eat such as moths and flies which is good because a common pipistrelle bat, which weighs less than a £1 coin, will eat over 3000 insects in one night!
On Friday 23 August you can go and see some bats for yourself on a bat walk that is being held at Elm Farm, Burnett, BS31 2TF from 7pm - 9.30pm. After walking along the farm tracks you will be able to watch the bats emerge from their roosts so bring your binoculars, a torch, sturdy footwear and warm clothes. To book a place ring Philippa Paget on 0117 986 4276.

The bats hunt using a system called echolocation, making high frequency shouts as they fly about. The rebounding echos give them information about the movement, size and shape of objects around them and help them to find food. Using bat detectors to pick up these high frequency sounds enables us to identify the different species.

If you think you have bats living in or near your home then you could take part in one of the bat monitoring programme surveys run by the Bat Conservation Trust. There are several to choose from depending on your experience and knowledge and the data can really help to build the bigger picture of bat populations across the country. If you would like to attract bats to your garden then there are plenty of ideas to make your garden more bat friendly on Avon Wildlife Trust's 'Bats for Bath' website from planting flowers which attract food in the form of insects to building your own bat box and for bat inspired crafty ideas such as making a bat kite, mask or mobile follow these instructions.

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