Cheering Chiroptera: Urban Bat Watching
I’ve had a horrid virus (not COVID) for the last week, which has sapped me of energy and kept me shivering indoors. Cheering me up immensely are the nightly aerial acrobatics of one or maybe two urban bats — I prop myself in my kitchen doorway and watch them swirl and plummet. They are so cute and whoosh about delightfully, as well as being remarkably punctual diners!
A few years ago, I realised that my urban, suburban area had a hidden attraction — wildlife! You can spot all kinds of birds — sparrows, cheeky robins, blackbirds, magpies, wrens and jays; one hungry squirrel; but most unexpectedly, bats! They whizzed over the gardens at sunset on summer evenings. I’d only ever seen bats in rural France before, so to find them here was sensational!
During the UK Lockdowns my area became incredibly noisy, a cut through for traffic, and light polluted as trees were cut down and people installed really sensitive and powerful security lights, not to mention stadium strong streetlights courtesy of the Council. Not surprisingly I didn’t see them anymore, although I’ve tried to keep my small garden dark and wildlife friendly.
However, my bats are back! Promptly at 7.20pm every night, twilight, they loop the loop and swoop around — clearly there is an insect feast in the area! Listening carefully, I could hear the swishing of their wings. They whizz purposefully back and forth on a wobbly circuit, abruptly dropping if they spot something really tasty. Sometimes they return at 7.40pm for a second run. By the time twilight has turned to night, they are gone — sometimes there is one, sometimes two, pinging into their circuit from wild angles. Though they’re so fast moving in their circuit that it can be hard to tell if I’m seeing a bat or bats!
Delightfully, they have the classic cut out sweeping wings, are about the size of my hands overall (I have smallish hands), and black in colour. Trying to identify which kind of bat my bat is…is a conundrum. I think maybe Noctule because they are dark overall in colour, don’t seem to have obviously large ears or pink faces. Welcome though, whatever kind of bat they are; they are delicate, curious visitors, nosily inching closer and closer to the house each night!
Though attractive as they are (and I love my twilight ‘air show’), thankfully they don’t appear to be sharing more than the garden space. I’m not ready to become a bat lair! Perhaps they are roosting in a tree nearby? Only time will tell….🦇
About Bats - Bat Conservation Trust
Bats are fascinating animals - the only true flying mammal. There are over 1,400 species of bats in the world, and more…