Listening out for bats at Polesden Lacey

A serotine bat in flight at night

Last week some of the Polesden Lacey ranger team headed down to the University of Sussex to learn more about species of UK bats. The purpose of this workshop was to learn how to identify different species of bats when using a bat detector.

As everyone knows bats use echolocation when flying at night. This allows them to see the world around through sound, allowing them to navigate their environment and find food. 
 
This echolocation is usually inaudible to us so most of the time we are unaware of the many bats flying above us in the darkness. However with the help of a bat detector these sounds can be converted so we can hear them. 
 
This is when it gets a bit technical. Each species of bat has a unique echolocation; like each species of bird has a different song. This means with a trained ear you can then start to identify which of the 18 different species of bat found here in the UK are whizzing around above your head.
A pipistrelle uses echolocation to find its way
A pipistrelle bat in flight at night
Not only this, each species looks very different. That is if you can snatch a rare glimpse of one flying by, maybe in the last rays of sundown.  You can see in the pictures of these three common species of bat, that each looks quite different to the others.
 
Using these two techniques of sound and sight you can start to identify what species of bats are flying by with pretty good accuracy.
 
Polesden Lacey is a perfect place for bats. In fact our estate supports 14 of the 18 species of bat in the UK. However, bats are incredibly sensitive to disturbance and it is for this reason that they are used as excellent ecosystem indicators.
Emerging into the night
A noctule bat emerges from a tree hollow
Bats are often one of the first animals to disappear from a disturbed or degraded habitat. So having a healthy population of bats means you have a healthy ecosystem. So it is important to monitor your bats because this can tell you if you need to change the way you manage your natural environment. 
 
So this summer the ranger team, with help from the Surrey Bat Group and the Bat Conservation Trust, will be carrying out bat surveys to try and determine what species are still calling Polesden Lacey home. 
 
Did you know that you can join us and help us monitor our bats? We will be running bat walks in August and September, where you can come and join the rangers as we walk the estate listening out for bats as well as all our other nocturnal wildlife.  
 
Click here to go to our events page to find details about our bat walks in August and September.
We’re also planning other events for you to join trained bat surveyors and get up close and learn more about these fascinating nocturnal creates. Keep checking the website for updates. 
 
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