By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Jul 2 2017 11:00AM
There are 18 species of bats in the UK (making up a quarter of all our mammal species) and summer is the best time to spot them.
Our bat populations are declining due to a loss of suitable habits and over use of pesticides but you still have a good chance of spotting them in most parts of the country. They live both in the countryside and towns and are most active during the warmer months after they emerge from hibernation. Any area with a combination of old buildings, dead trees and water is likely to be home to a population of bats.
Bats are nocturnal so the best time to see them is either at sunset or sunrise. On a warm, dry day when there are plenty of insects in the air, find a patch of bright sky surrounded by trees or buildings and you'll see the bats flittering around, silhouetted against the sky at dusk and dawn. Different bats have different feeding patterns so look for them up in the air, skimming the top of hedgerows and over flat areas like fields and lakes.
The four species that you're most likely to see are:
• Pipistrelles (common and soprano) - the most common bats. Small and fast, you'll spot them flittering across the sky at sunset.
• Noctules - these bats usually fly in straight lines, high in the air.
• Brown long-eared bat - emerge later at night and are harder to spot because they stay very close to the trees where they feed. If you're really lucky you'll spot one hovering up in the branches.
• Daubenton's bat - also known as the water bat, most often seen skimming over rivers and ponds.
If you do manage to spot bats you can help conserve them by taking part in a Bat Conservation Trust survey. Available online, these simple recordings of sightings and numbers help the trust compile valuable conservation information. You should never disturb or interfere with roosting bats; they are protected by law and it is illegal to handle one without a licence. But you can (and should) encourage them into your garden by building a bug house (see February).
Did you know…? Bats can eat 3000 insects a night. That's up to a third of their own body weight.