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Going Batty

Pipistrelle bat Pipistrelle bat Credits: Harry Hogg

For life-long birder Andrew Chick, discovering his first bat roost sparked a deep interest in bats and all things batty. Here he reveals what makes them so special, and shares some great footage of bats in action.

I have been interested in watching birds for as long as I can remember. In fact, watching birds became a bit of an obsession! But that all changed early one summer evening when I was walking home after watching woodcock on a local woodland nature reserve.


I was passing an old oak tree when I heard an incredibly high-pitched noise. As I investigated, a bat suddenly popped out of a hole in one of the tree's branches, flew around the woodland clearing and then disappeared. Over the next 10 minutes I watched as about 20 more bats appeared, one after the other. I had discovered my first bat roost, which sparked a deep interest in bats and all things batty ever since!


Watch video footage of UK bat species


When I wanted to learn more about bats, I joined my local bat group, who organised trips and surveys. I learnt more about bats through the work of the Bat Conservation Trust, and finally became a Natural England volunteer bat warden. I now help people who encounter bats and want advice or help.


One way to monitor bats is to use video cameras to film them leaving their roosts. Use the links below to watch and listen to some of the UK's bat species filmed using remote cameras. 



Common pipistrelle


As the name suggests, this is the UK's commonest bat. They are found throughout the UK and Ireland, from Cornwall to northern Scotland. It is one of our smallest bats and, although common, is still declining in numbers.  


If you have ever seen a bat, it was likely to have been this species. They emerge from their roost about 20-30 minutes after sunset, while it is still just light enough to see them. They feed on tiny flying insects and can eat thousands in a single evening. They are found in all sorts of habitat, from open woodland to farmland, parks and gardens.




Video footage: Pipistrelle bats leaving a large roost in a church. Wow, what a lot of bats! There are over 200 pipistrelle bats living in this church, and they all leave over the top of the door. That may sound like a lot of bats, but you could probably fit that many into a single shoe box. They are that small! If you listen carefully, you can hear the church clock tick-tocking in this video clip. 



Daubenton's bat


Some people call this the water bat, which is certainly easier to pronounce! Also, this name tells you everyting you need to know about them - they love water! They spend most of their time feeding on aquatic insects caught along rivers, canals, lakes and ponds.


They are fairly common and found across the UK and Ireland, but not the Scottish islands. If you want to see one of these bats, visit a slow running river or canal on a warm, still, moonlit night with an adult (who's not afraid of the dark!). Look for them flying in straight lines close to the water's surface.




Video footage: Although called the water bat, these bats still need to roost on solid ground. They often choose bridges and other structures near water. These bats can be seen leaving a castle and flying off over the moat! The hole they are leaving used to be the medieval toilet! I have attached a bat detector to the camera to allow you to hear the noise they make when leaving the roost.




Brown long-eared bat


These bats have big ears, and if you are lucky enough to see one, there is no mistaking their identification. These bats emerge from their roost at least an hour after dark so they can be very difficult to see. They are widespread across the UK and typically feed on moths caught in and around woodland.




Video footage: This footage shows some brown long-eared bats leaving an old barn by climbing over the top of the door! The bats then fly out to nearby woodland to feed. look carefully and watch out for their ears as they pop out over the door. The background noise is an air-conditioning unit. i have attached a bat detector to the camera so you can hear the noise they make when leaving the roost.




Noctule bat


Noctule bats are the largest bat found in the UK. They always roost in trees and it is very rare to find them roosting in man-made structures. They are big bats which fly high and fast. They feed on moths, flying beetles and other large insects. They are early to emerge and can sometimes be seen feeding near woodland or over pasture. They are found in England, Wales and southern Scotland.




Video footage: This video footage shows the noctule bat's social call. This has been recorded using a specialist bat detector. The sound is then played back through a computer. This is the bat's social call, used when talking to other noctule bats (a bit like when birds sing). Noctule bats have one of the most complex social calls of any bats.




Nathusius' pipistrelle


The Nathusius' bat is one of the UK's rarer bats. They are far more common on the continent and are know to migrate from northern Europe to southern Europe in the winter. The status of this species in the UK is still not fully understood, but they have been recorded in every country.




Video footage: This video footage shows the call of the Nathusuis' pipistrelle. It shows the bat moving from an open environment and then feeding in a cluttered (woodland) environment. The way bats change their calls in response to the landscape is fascinating. This recording was made on a Wildlife Trust reserve in Leicestershire.



It's important to remember that bats are protected species and very sensitive to disturbance. The welfare of bats is my main concern, which is why every care has been taken when gathering the footage shown here: 


- All the video equipment used to capture these images was carefully set up before the bats started to emerge 

- The equipment was left operating remotely while the bats were active

- The equipment is recovered after the bats have left their roost

- All video is recorded using infra-red lighting, which isn't visible to the bats

- No bats were disturbed while obtaining this footage