Tick Slap Tock Chop Warble: ID’ing bats in the field

What are you lot doing? Are there really bats in this park!? Are you serious? Oh god where’s my dog!

Bats often conjure ideas of blood sucking parasites, evil night flying creatures, squealing blindly and getting caught in your hair. Contrary to popular belief, bats are an endangered mammal whose populations are suffering at the hands of humanity, as usual.

By Rauno Kalda (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Rauno Kalda (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Importantly, bats act as indicators of biodiversity and ecosystem health, due to their close association with pure water bodies, mature trees, and insect abundance. Fortunately, bats and their roost areas received legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), with penalties per bat demanding fines of £5000 per incident.

The National Bat Monitoring Program, set up by the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) in 1996, has encouraged data collection from over 3500 volunteers. Data, processed annually, has helped inform trends in population, identify causes of decline, and influence policy.

Basic bat identification is simple. Using a heterodyne detector (£7.50 from Argos!) bat calls can be differentiated by repetition, rhythm, pitch, and tone. Courses held by the BCT and other institutions can offer basic introductions into the world of bats. Those with basic knowledge can then help join surveys in waterways and sections of land chosen by the BCT to help contribute to the yearly collection. A feat of citizen science!