Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Ninety-two.

17 June 2020 | Posted in Michael Blencowe
Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Ninety-two.

The uplifting role that wildlife plays in our lives becomes more vital than ever. So, for my own sanity as much as anything, I’m going to keep a daily diary of what I find around my garden and in my neighbour's roof. Post your pictures on the ‘Sussex Wildlife Trust Nature Table’ page.

Day Ninety-two.

This morning, at 4:20am, I was lying flat on my back on my neighbour's lawn in my dressing gown. I guess to any passer-by (and there aren't many of those in my cul-de-sac at 04:20) it may have looked like the end to a very successful party. But it was the start of something amazing. Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The other night, before I saw the Ghost Moth, I noticed two pipistrelle bats flying out from under the eaves of my neighbour's bungalow.

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So last night I went out with a chair and a bat detector. Each night the sky above Sussex is a battlefield of deafening cries as pipistrelle bats swoop and swirl, plummet and pounce at their insect prey and it all goes unnoticed by us humans. Our hearing is limited and when it comes to night vision we’re as blind as, well, something with really bad eyesight… in fact anything but a bat.  Bats have excellent vision. But it certainly isn’t their best sense.  

Echolocation is one of the animal world’s most incredible superpowers. A pipistrelle shouts, the shout hits something and bounces back. This echo is instantly analysed within their amazing brain and tells the bat how far away the object is and whether it’s a mosquito, a moth or a mansion. To get the maximum information from their echo pipistrelles yell at high frequencies (45 kHz, we can only hear up 20 kHz). And these shouts are loud; pneumatic drill loud. Up to 110 decibels in some species. A bat would deafen itself if it heard its own shout. So pipistrelles have to disengage their ears then shout, turn their hearing back on, listen for the echo, analyse, then start all over again. All at the rate of 10-15 times a second. This gives bats an amazing, multi-layered awareness of their surroundings.

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So using my bat detector allows me to 'listen in' to their shouts and can help us locate and identify the bats. 

I also had this little clicker thing

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(Back in the 1990s I went out clubbing in Brighton and, after standing the nightclub queue for half an hour, me and my mate were not let into the club by a particularly horrible bouncer. So we walked away despondently only to find that, round the corner, the club's fire door was wide open. So we just walked in. Not only that, on the way out at 2am I noticed the mean bouncer had left his clicker thing unguarded so I snuck up behind him and borrowed it. My mate asked me what I would use it for and I remember saying that I had no idea but I know that one day it would come in handy. Well last night, for the first time in 25 years, it came in handy).

So last night I registered online to take part in the National Bat Monitoring Programme. I pulled up a chair on the lawn and, at 8:55pm, the first bat flew out and I started clicking. 

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Here's one of the pipistrelles emerging.

They were Common Pipistrelles. There are 17 species of bat in Sussex. Our smallest – the Common Pipistrelle – is also the one you’re most likely to see around your gardens. Back in the 80s there were just four TV channels, two types of videocassette and one species of pipistrelle in Britain. But in the 90s, scientists discovered that some pipistrelles were echolocating at higher frequencies (55 kHz not 45kHz); a Montserrat Caballé to the common pipistrelle’s Freddie Mercury (here). These are the Soprano Pipistrelles. There’s now a third: Nathusius' pipistrelle. By affixing lightweight metal rings to this species’ wings, researchers have discovered that this species is migrating to Sussex from as far away as Latvia.  An amazing journey for an amazing animal.

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(I took this picture a few years ago when I was out with some licensed bat ringers at our Rye Harbour Nature Reserve)

But, back to the cul-de-sac. The bats just kept pouring out from under the roof...

...and I kept my thumb on the clicker until 50 minutes later it seemed that they had all emerged.

There were 126 bats!

So, this morning I went out at first light to watch them return. I lie there in my dressing gown watching them swirl overhead before heading back under the eaves for the day.


Bats give birth to just one baby bat (a pup). This tends to happen around July. So this may mean that, in a few weeks time this maternity roost will double in size. Three weeks after birth, pipistrelles take their first flights - so there could be 252 bats emerging.

Now you can take part in the excitement too. I pointed the camera at the roof last night and recorded about 18 minutes of the bats emerging. So grab a stolen clicker (or a pen and paper) and see how many pipistrelles you can spot emerging from the roof. 

And you'll be able to listen to this Meat Loaf classic twice while you're counting (here)

You can help bats by creating a wildlife friendly garden which will encourage plenty of insects (bat food). There's also a lack of suitable homes for bats these days, our uPVC houses don't have the little gaps they require. Consider putting up a bat box to help your local bats. Here's our guide to helping bats (here)

Comments

  • Gordon:

    17 Jun 2020 09:40:00

    Fascinating and so well written it feels like I was actually there.

  • Mary:

    17 Jun 2020 10:49:00

    Your neighbours must be doing something right – 8 fox cubs and 126 pipistrelles! (Reminds me as a child of watching bats emerging from just above my bedroom window [this was in Ipswich in the 60’s], it seemed to me always the same identical time, just about 9pm. I wasn’t usually awake to see them return in the morning!)

  • Ginny-Vic:

    17 Jun 2020 13:10:00

    This diary really is like Neighbours! We really are meeting everyone! The bat neighbours, the fox neighbours, the lady with the spray can, the wildlife garden converts, the one that came home late on a plane, the one that sells soil. I’m also wondering if you should bring out Back Garden Bird Race dressing gown, because it does seem that that is standard wildlife watching attire! I am stunned by the amount of wildlife there is to see from a back garden and every day you surprise us with something else. I keep looking out the window wondering if I have a fox or ghost moth or maybe now a bat? I would love to have a bat box. I will look into this. I bought a robin teapot but I’ve lost my robin. Maybe I’ll get one for Christmas?

  • Mike Douglass:

    18 Jun 2020 11:09:00

    Having met you a few times and heard you talking to people , I thought you were good , now I know you’re great !

  • Amanda:

    18 Jun 2020 11:24:00

    Great fun! Pups are early this year, I have 2 pip pups in the bat hospital with their mums, they are 2 and 5 days old. Will be released with mums when they can fly.

  • wendy jago:

    18 Jun 2020 11:42:00

    where can I find your daily diary? we live very close to Woods Mill – the same road as Mike Russell used to live in, if you know where that is. I’d love to follow what you see. I suspect we are indoors at the best times! We do see buzzards flying over in the daytime, and we were pretty sure we saw a marsh harrier at a great height a few days ago. But we haven’t seen bats here for ages. They used to be out in the evenings along our road, but not for some time.

    Hi Wendy, the diary appears everyday on the main SWT page and previous entries are available here https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/wildlifediary
  • Mike Douglass:

    18 Jun 2020 11:42:00

    Having met you a few times and heard you talking to people , I thought you were good , now I know you’re great !

  • Angela Colyer:

    18 Jun 2020 13:02:00

    We live on the new estate in Felpham and have been here for 6 years. The first summer we noticed bats at the back of the house and last year put a bat box up in the autumn. This year I have seen bats coming out and think they are probably pipistrelles. Only about 4 of them I think.

  • Koula:

    18 Jun 2020 19:28:00

    I live in Worthing and my cat very sadly killed and bat and injured another one.
    Since then I am keeping my cats inside at night, although there is only one that hunts.
    I don’t know where the bats came from.
    Please can you advise how to protect wildlife from cats..

    Hi Koula. A well-fitting collar with a bell gives wildlife some warning of a cat approaching. You can also keep your cat indoors during the times when birds are most vulnerable. These are at least an hour before sunset and an hour after sunrise, especially March-July and Dec-Jan. This is also important after bad weather, for example, rain or when it's been very cold, because this allows birds time they need to come out and feed.
  • sarah wall:

    18 Jun 2020 22:16:00

    Please send me more of your talks very good. I would love to hear one of your talks if possible. Where and when please.

    Hi Sarah. We're not running events at the moment, because of COVID-19, but you might want to consider joining the Trust, if you're not already a member. Then you'll be supporting wildlife & we'll keep you informed about when the talks will begin again? There are also normally a number of member-only events - more info here https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/make-a-difference/join
  • Cathy:

    19 Jun 2020 07:20:00

    I live very close to Combe Valley and since the new bypass was made we have more wildlife than ever, and many more bats, in the woods behind my garden. Last year my son called me to the front of the house and his voice seemed to attract them more. We stood under the porch for at least 10 minutes whilst the bats gave us an amazing display, coming so close to us when we ohhhed and arrred like we were watching a firework display.
    Amazing little creatures, we love having them as our neighbours

  • Claire Camsell:

    19 Jun 2020 08:43:00

    Glad I found your blog, made me laugh and I’ll go out and see if we have bats on our roof tonight…we live in a very drafty old school complete with bell tower, what self respecting bat wouldn’t want to live in a roof like that!

  • Roger Martin:

    19 Jun 2020 15:00:00

    Hi Michael
    We live in East Preston West Sussex and have had a few pipistrelles in our garden for the last 12 years. I don’t know where they roost, but unfortunately there is only one this year despite planting honeysuckle for the moths.

  • Amanda:

    04 Jul 2020 07:49:00

    Great fun! Pups are early this year, I have 2 pip pups in the bat hospital with their mums, they are 2 and 5 days old. Will be released with mums when they can fly.

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