Five species and counting…
One of the joys of moving to a new place has been the gradual discovery of our new environment. Since March we’ve witnessed a multitude of plants emerge, grow, flower and fruit with the changing seasons. We’ve delighted in the summer swallows sitting chattering to one another on the telephone wire, the green woodpecker with its lilting flight from tree to tree along the drive, the cries of buzzards and, more recently, hoots of owls in the early morning. However, it is with our mammalian nocturnal flyers that much of my interest lies and I’m delighted to report we have so far found five bat species at Halsbeer Farm.
Many of our cottage and yurt guests have enjoyed guided bat walks from the farm courtyard, where bats often fly over the thatch early in the evening, to the conservatory pond where both common and soprano pipistrelles zip against the twilight sky feeding on insects while we watch from the deck. Later we witness Daubenton’s bats zooming back and forth low over the garden pond. They are so difficult to see against the hillside in the gloaming that we wouldn’t know they were there at all without bat detectors to reveal their rapid fire echolocation calls and feeding buzzes.
One family who stayed in Hay Barn in August were lucky enough to see a brown long-eared bat at very close quarters when it appeared in the conservatory one evening. “That” law dictated that I was away for the weekend, but thanks to them for the fantastic photograph of a beautiful bat. Last but not least, bringing the count to five, bat expert friends of mine who stayed in Buzzard yurt in August recorded a serotine, one of the UK’s larger bat species, flying past on its twilight patrol.
In most cases I have no idea where the bats we see are roosting, there are so many opportunities in the old buildings and trees around the farm. However one evening our al fresco supper at the back of the farmhouse was much enhanced by the chitter-chatter of four pipistrelle bats jostling for position before popping out from a tiny hole at the apex of the farmhouse’s laundry room roof. I suspect that the long-eared bat occasionally roosts in a crevice at the top of the conservatory’s old stone wall that was once the back of the dairy or stable at the farm. No doubt there will be future discoveries as we continue on this adventure.
At this time of year, when we celebrate harvest and nature’s bounty, when we traditionally put food aside by preserving and pickling for the leaner times to come in Winter, I think of the bats out there essentially doing the same thing. By feeding their way through these Autumn nights, they are fattening themselves up with their very own internal food store for hibernation to see them through the cold, insect-poor months ahead. It is unfortunate though that this is also a time of year when the negative and mis-leading images of bats often get thrust to the fore – Halloween. The Bat Conservation Trust is running a Halloween appeal to raise funds to help raise awareness of bats and alter people’s perceptions of them. I’m pleased that I’ve been able to share the fascinating experience of hearing and seeing real bats with some of our guests this summer, hopefully altering some perceptions along the way, and I look forward to doing the same next year. Come see us and the bats!
If you have enjoyed a bat walk this year or simply want to support their conservation do please donate at http://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/bats/halloween
For information about bats and to find your local bat group visit http://www.bats.org.uk.