Posted by: 4getmenotflower | August 31, 2010

Wet and Slappy? We’re going Batty!

Hey blog-watchers!

I thought I’d give you a quick update on the most recent event held at Cullaloe – the Bat Walk!  This took place on Saturday night, which as you may remember was quite windy and a bit cold.  However, that didn’t stop 12 people braving the elements to come out and see who or what might be lurking in the shadows near the loch!

The event began with a bit of background about the types of bats that can be found in Fife, of which there are 5 main species.  These are the Common Pipistrelle, the Soprano Pipistrelle, the Brown Long-Eared Bat, the Daubentons Bat and the Natterers Bat (although the best place to see this last one is the Ice House at Tentsmuir.  I also brought along fabric silouhettes of the largest (Kalong – also called the flying fox) and smallest (Bumblebee) bats in the world!  The difference is massive, given that the Kalong has a near 2m wing-span, as opposed to the 15cm wing-span of the Bumblebee bat!

Once everyone had a bit of background knowledge tucked away, we started towards the screen area – which is where Grahame and I have regularly found bats in the past.  Along the way we discussed the various types of roosts the different types of bats use and the ways they hunt and catch their prey.  I am embarrassed to say that there was one mildly “whoopsie” moment, when I mistakenly told everyone that bats were not mammals and had more in common with humans than mammals!  I had meant to say bats were not RODENTS!!  Luckily, Grahame immediately picked me up on it, and I got it straighted out! 😉

When we reached the screen, everyone who had them set their detectors to 50khz, which is a good starting point for hearing the both Pipistrelle species and Daubentons bats, all of which have been found at Cullaloe in the past.  A soprano pip was quickly picked up and the visitors had their first taste of batty sound!  I should just say that both types of pip can be picked up at 50khz – although the common pip uses a frequenzy of around 45khz and the soprano is clearer at 55khz.

The pipistrelle bat makes a sound very much like the noise you get if you bring your open palms sharply down on your thighs one at a time – a bit wet and slappy sounding (thanks to Anne Youngman at the Bat Conservation Trust for that brilliant description! :-)).  This makes it easy to identify when heard alongside the daubentons’ sound, which is more like a geiger counter!

Unfortunately, the wind did seem to take a bit of a toll on the bat numbers, and although we did hear bats in two locations, they all appeared to be sporano pips and there weren’t very many of them.  It was disappointing that no daubentons were heard, despite Tim having set up a moth trap in the spillway to attract higher numbers to an easy feed!

So, after an hour or so of listening intently for bats, our weary but happy group made their way back down to the car park – but not before I was unfortunate enough to get a “gift” of some sap from one of the Scots Pines! 😦  I felt this big “plop” on my head and discovered I was very sticky indeed!  It did smell nice, but it took a fair bit of washing to get the sugary substance out of my hair!  I have to admit though – when it happened, I couldn’t help but be relieved that some roosting bird hadn’t just decided to give their own assessment of my presentation skills! 😉

All in all, the event went very well.  the small turn-out of bats was a little disappointing, but the big turn-out of visitors was very encouraging indeed!  Big thank you’s and well done’s to them all! 🙂  Grahame and I finally feel that our hard work is starting to pay off this year!

And finally – one of the visitors asked how long Pipistrelle bats live and I didn’t know the answer.  I can let you know now that the estimated lifespan is around 16 years!  Not bad, eh?

Happy bat hunting if you decide to give it a go yourself!

Take care, Janie

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