At our Belfast Window on Wildlife reserve we recently hosted another great bat walk event, writes Brian Campbell - RSPB NI.
So, while we at the RSPB are mostly known for our work with birds, we often host bat walks too and are helped out on many occasions by our friends in the NI Bat Group.
It’s easy to see why people are fascinated by bats. Their unique wing structure along with their light weight enables them to go to places that other land-based mammals would find unmanageable. Their limbs are highly modified for flight, so they find it difficult to move around on the ground. When they are not flying, they rest hanging upside down from a tree branch using their sharp claws.
Roosting in caves, trees or draught-free buildings; each species has their own preferred roost, usually near its main food source. They eat insects including moths and midges, so are considered a very important natural pest controller. Echolocation aids their navigation when hunting for prey on the wing at night. Bats are creatures of habit, returning to their favourite roost each year.
Northern Ireland has eight species of bats, all protected by European law.
Apart from being incredible little animals to watch, bats are a valuable part of nature across the UK and can be a very welcome visitor to our gardens. Sadly, though, they’re becoming increasingly rare in the UK. Like so many other animals, a gradual loss of habitat and roost sites are making numbers decline at an alarming rate. As old trees are cut down, buildings disturbed and mines filled in, bats are left with very few natural roost sites. Making sure our gardens are thriving insect-rich feeding grounds for bats can help a lot. And, just as we do with nestboxes for birds, we can also provide alternative roost sites for bats in the form of bat boxes. You can find out more information on how to help bats via our website (http://bit.ly/BatHomes). So while our Belfast Bat Walk is done for another year, we have another fantastic event taking place in Enniskillen in September. What better date for a ‘Bat Detectives’ guided walk than Friday the 13th?
It’s a great opportunity to learn more about bats, to see and hear them and immerse yourself in their world. There will be a short introductory talk about bats followed by a night-time walk using bat detectors to identify the different species living in Enniskillen town centre. Tickets are £5 per adult, £2.50 per child and free for all RSPB members. To book, call 028 9064 5630 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 5pm) or email email@example.com