|Ready for the off, eager bat walkers gather at Knights Park.|
The event had been oversubscribed, but for those lucky people who booked a place early, the evening was a revelation. Our guide for the walk, local bat ecologist Alison Fure, gave a fascinating account of the different bat species in the Kingston area, their ecology, seasonal behaviour and threats to their survival. She explained how the Hogsmill river represents one of the most important biodiversity features of the borough and our bat walk clearly demonstrated why.
|Alison's love of local wildlife was clear to see. Would any attendees be similarly smitten with bats by the end of the night?|
|Listening for bats is easy with the right gadgets. Bat detectors were handed out and tuned to 45kHz to pick up the calls of the most common species of bats.|
|Look to the sky!|
Heading down along the riverside footpath, we heard more bats 'commuting' to their favoured feeding grounds, while later on, we found those who had travelled further to this spot to forage. The river clearly acts as a navigation point connecting feeding grounds as well as a reliable source of insect prey.
Between us we detected three species in all: Common pipistrelle, Soprano pipistrelle and Daubentons, but the Sopranos were by far the most abundant and vocal. The two pipistrelle species are the most common in the country and the ones you are most likely to see in your garden at dusk. Daubentons emerge a little later, are bigger and glean insects from the water surface with their feet. Despite our attempts to spot their white bellies glinting over the river, we only saw the pips.
|Participants crowded around the Jubilee bridge railings to hear and catch sight of the bat frenzy below.|
Alison described how the fate of bats in the Royal Borough of Kingston is often contributed to by decisions we can all have an influence on regarding new developments and night lighting. Natural habitat features for bats have diminished in recent years, and although artificial features such as bat bricks can be installed, nothing is quite as good as nature. We need to keep those superficial crevices in walls, ventilation holes in roofs and deadwood in our gardens as they all provide perfect roosting opportunities for our nocturnal friends.
We heard that many forms of artificial night lighting disrupt natural patterns of insect behaviour and can put bats at risk as they seek out their insect prey which area attracted to the lights. Droppings came up in conversation yet again, as Alison explained how owl pellets revealed bats to be on the menu for the nighttime predators.
|Amy and Naailah thoroughly enjoyed the evening of battiness!|