Sunday, 15 June 2008

Bat Night in Blackpool 14th June 2008

Stanley Park Visitor Centre was the venue for a talk about Britain's bats by local bat expert David MacLean. After the talk the bat detectors were turned on and tuned to 50kHz in anticipation of finding some Pipistrelles. The bat detector is a simple piece of kit that turns the high pitched echo-location calls bats use to find their way around and catch their insect prey into sound we humans can hear.

Despite the cool temperatures and stiff breeze the bats were active and the detectors started picking up their calls almost immediately. Above our heads in a gap between the trees two Pipistrelles vied with a Swift for airspace and a chance to catch the midges. Judging by the number of 'feeding raspberries' we heard the bats were doing OK. As the bat approaches its target the number of calls it emits increases rapidly so that bat has a high definition sound 'picture' of its next meal. The result on the bat detector is a rather comically rude rasp!

We moved down to the island between the two bridges over the lake and again were treated to exceptional views of bats hawking insects just below the tree tops. Every now and then the detectors' volume increased as a bat flew low over our heads. The bats showed up very well against the light late evening sky.

From there we stood on the first bridge aiming the detectors down the channel. This was fantastic. The channel was sheltered from the wind and was full of midges, we could see them in the beams from our torches. The detectors were going 'off the scale'. This was the best bat night at Stanley Park ever. All the bats rcorded were Pipistrelles, if we'd have spent longer there is a good chance we would have recorded Daubenton's Bat as well.

Where to next?

The National Whale and Dolphin Watch organised by the Sea Watch Foundation runs from the 21st June to 1st July from a variety of sites in Blackpool. See details on the Solaris Centre's website.

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