Which bats might I see in my garden?

We are lucky enough to have all 18 species of British bat in Sussex. You are most likely to see them when they are hunting at night. Their fast flight can make bats tricky to identify but here are a few key features of the species you’re most likely to see in and around your garden:

Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)

  • Smallest of all British bats but also the commonest and most widespread, so you have a good chance of spotting one.
  • Emerge around 20 minutes after sunset.
  • A fast, erratic flight as they twist and turn around buildings, streetlights, trees and hedges pursuing small insects, which they catch and eat on the wing.
  • Summer roosts are usually found in crevices around the outside of often newer buildings.
  • Also roost in tree holes, crevices, and bat boxes.
  • Two other similar species: the Soprano and the rarer Nathusius’ Pipistrelle.

Brown Long-eared (Plecotus auritus)

  • Medium-sized bat with exceptionally large ears, nearly as long as their body.
  • Usually emerge after dark flying very close to trees, which can make them difficult to spot.
  • Flight is low and hovering, often amongst foliage, picking insects off leaves and bark.
  • Broad wings and tail allow slow, highly maneuverable flight, a little bit like a big butterfly.
  • Small prey is eaten in flight but larger insects are often taken to a perch.
  • Particularly like moths and butterflies and the remains of wings can be found under regular perches.
  • Summer roosts are usually located in older buildings, barns, churches and trees.

Noctule (Nyctalus noctula)

  • One of our biggest bats and usually the first bat to appear in the evening, sometimes even before sunset.
  • A characteristic powerful, direct flight on distinct narrow pointed wings.
  • Fly in the open, often well above tree-top level, with repeated steep dives when chasing insects.
  • During spring they feed mainly on smaller insects such as midges, then change their diet to take beetles and moths later in the season.
  • Primarily tree dwellers, roosting mainly in rot holes and woodpecker holes. Rarely occur in buildings.

Serotine (Eptesicus serotinus)

  • Also a big bat and one of the first to appear in the evening, often in good light.
  • Broad wings and distinctive leisurely flapping flight, with occasional short glides or steep descents.
  • Flies at about tree-top height often close to vegetation, and will sometimes flop, wings outstretched, onto the foliage to catch insects.
  • Preferred prey is large beetles.
  • Roost mainly in old buildings with high gables and cavity walls, such as churches; less often found in modern buildings.

Daubentons (Myotis daubentonii)

  • Medium-sized species, closely associated with water bodies.
  • Forage for insects close to the water surface, like a mini hovercraft, using their large feet as a gaff or the tail membrane as a scoop.
  • Roosts tend to be humid, more or less underground sites near water. For example tunnels or bridges over canals and rivers, or in caves, mines and cellars.

Posted in: Bats on 07 May 2015

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