Our weird and wonderful neighbours- Bats in the UK and Stoke Park.

In the UK, we have 18 amazing bat species, 17 of which breed here [1]. They are all unique in their own way and differ from each other in terms of their behaviours and food and habitat preferences. For today’s blog, I’ll be talking about the different species we have here in the UK and which of these you can find in Stoke Park!

Photo credit: Finding Nature

All of our bats are pretty small, with a largest species being the Noctule (Nyctalus noctula), which can weigh up to 40g [2]. The UK’s smallest bat, and also one of the most common, is the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), which only weighs 5g [3]! However, despite their tiny size, common pipistrelles eat thousands of insects each night! All UK bats only eat insects, which mainly includes midges, moths, beetles and even spiders. The ways in which they forage vary greatly between species regarding their speed and height of flight and feeding tactics. For example, Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii) are also known as “water bats” because they scoop their prey off the water’s surface [4]. Some bats such as the Noctule fly high and fast, catching prey mid-flight, whereas others, including the lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) and brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus) fly slower and lower taking insects which are sitting on foliage.

Here is a list of all UK bat species, the ones found within and around Stoke Park are highlighted in bold [1; 5]:

  • Alcathoe bat (Myotis alcathoe)
  • Barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus)
  • Bechstein’s bat (Myotis bechsteinii)
  • Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandtii)
  • Brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus)
  • Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)
  • Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii)
  • Greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum)
  • Grey long-eared bat (Plecotus austriacus)
  • Leisler’s bat (Nyctalus leisleri)
  • Lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros)
  • Greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis) (breeds outside of UK)
  • Nathusius’ bat (Pipistrellus nathusii)
  • Natterer’s bat (Myotis nattereri)
  • Noctule (Nyctalus noctula)
  • Serotine (Eptesicus serotinus)
  • Soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus)
  • Whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus)

All of our UK bats are protected, meaning that it is illegal to disturb them or their roosts. This is because our increasing human populations are driving bat populations to decrease. For example, since the 1960s, there has been a 55% decline in pipistrelles [6]. Human activity is bat’s biggest threat, as we are causing habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as polluting their homes and resources with chemicals, light and noise [7].  There are loads of really simple ways we can help including planting a range of flowers in our gardens, turning off our lights and getting involved with community bat surveys!

Stoke Park supports a variety of bat species providing habitat for foraging, roosting, commuting and hibernating. There is evidence that they use the woodlands to roost, although many travel from surrounding areas and use the park to forage or as a commuting route. Duchess Pond is an important feeding site for many species, including the Daubenton’s bat and soprano pipistrelle, as there’s a lot of insects at the water’s surface. The grassland and woodlands also act as great foraging and commuting sites as they contain a variety of prey and when not exposed to light, are considered safe.

Photo credit: Bristol City Council

The best time to see our bats is on summer evenings, as they are nocturnal and hibernate in colder months. At dusk it can be exciting to watch them swoop and dive across the skies. However, if you want to explore them further, you can use a bat detector which records their high pitch (too high for us to hear) calls, used for locating insects, to identify which bats are around. Bat walks are also hosted in Stoke Park, which can be a really fun way to engage in learning about them. There are currently several opportunities to attend a walk run by Steve England, tickets are available via this link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/s-englandeshimell-17363878232

However, as Stoke Park is surrounded by urban area, the bat species within and around are vulnerable to human disturbances such as light pollution. The light spilling from our homes and streetlights impact many of the bats present in the woodland and those commuting to and from the park. The M32 also lights up the grassland and Duchess Pond, which can cause light-sensitive species, such as the Daubenton’s bat, to avoid a key foraging spot. Light pollution in Stoke Park may also act as a barrier between habitats for bats using it as a commuting route. There are loads of ways we can help protect Stoke Park’s bats such as reducing the light in and around our homes and contacting the council about streetlighting and ways to limit light pollution from the M32.

We are really lucky to have so many bats on our doorstep! Watching and listening to them can be an exciting way to engage with them. However, we need to make sure we are all playing our part in reducing our impacts on them and helping them thrive. As our UK bats vary in so many ways it is important to consider all of their different requirements to make sure we’re supporting as many as we can!

Next week I’ll be highlighting how different types of light affect different bat species and suggesting which ones you could use to reduce your impact!

You can access information on this issue and find out how to help by following Blinded by the Night’s Facebook and Instagram pages. If you have any questions about the campaign or would like to get involved, please contact me via email at Beth2.Gerrard@live.uwe.ac.uk.

How to get involved:

Facebook: Blinded by the Night @blindedbythenightbristol

Instagram: @blindedbythenight_bats

References:

  1. URL: https://www.bats.org.uk/about-bats/what-are-bats/uk-bats
  2. URL: https://ptes.org/get-informed/facts-figures/noctule/
  3. URL: https://cdn.bats.org.uk/pdf/About%20Bats/commonpipistrelle_11.02.13.pdf?mtime=20181101151257&focal=none
  4. URL: https://cdn.bats.org.uk/pdf/About%20Bats/daubentons_11.02.13.pdf?mtime=20181101151258&focal=none
  5. URL: https://www.brerc.org.uk/
  6. URL: https://ptes.org/get-informed/facts-figures/common-soprano-pipistrelles/
  7. URL: https://www.conservationevidence.com/synopsis/pdf/8