In late July a boat full of Kingston University students, staff and local residents took a trip along the River Thames with all eyes peeled for everyone’s favourite furry flying mammal – the bat!
Local expert Alison Fure, a fountain of knowledge on all things bat, was our guide. She started off by prepping us all with bat detectors, which we would later use to listen to the bats flying around us, and an assignment to watch out for the changing effect of light pollution along the Thames from Kingston to Hampton Court.
Light pollution from human development along riverbanks can be very harmful to bats. Many species of bat use rivers as their feeding grounds, but excess light bouncing off the surface of the river prevents them from feeding here, and can disrupt flight paths which fragments their habitat.
Looking out for light pollution along the river was an enlightening task. Whilst some areas of the river were dark – perfect for bat foraging – some areas were really suffering from bank side development which was throwing lots of artificial light on to the water. Seeing brightly lit unoccupied buildings was a shock to some of those on the trip who hadn't been aware of the issue before.
Despite the threat that bats are under, trip goers spotted six different species of bat on the river. Perhaps the most memorable of the bats were those flitting about in the Seething Wells tunnel which was built to transport coal from barges on the river to the Chelsea waterworks coal store, which is now a listed building sitting within the University’s halls of residence.
For more information about bats and lighting, see the Bat Conservation Trust website.