International Bat Night is upon us (29-30th August). As bats are one of species we share our forest environment with, we’ve brought you 20 top bat facts, courtesy of our Forest Rangers.
We have resident bats at all our Forest Holidays locations and lots of opportunities to see them. The best chance is on the Twilight or Night Vision walk with the Forest Ranger. All locations have special bat boxes too, providing safe homes for these amazing but vulnerable creatures.
1. There are 18 species of bat in the UK –that’s over 20% of all our UK mammal species
2. But they account for only 1% of the UK mammal population at around 2.5 million bats.
3. The 2 main species of Pipistrelle bat account for 2 million of our bats which means that the other 16 species are quite rare. Indeed there is only 1 known greater mouse-eared bat, who has been in hibernation since 2002!
4. Bats are the only mammals that can fly. Their wings are essentially flaps of skin joining their fingers together.
5. Bats are not blind. In fact they can see quite well in the half light. However, similar to dolphins they mainly use echolocation - high pitched sounds which bounce back, allowing them to build a picture of the landscape in which they are flying.
6. Using echolocation a bat can even detect the size and shape of an insect and in which direction it is travelling. Before eating it.
7. Bats eat thousands of insects. A pipistrelle can easily get through 3000 midges on a single night.
8. There really are vampire bats. Three species of bat, found in Central and South America feed solely on blood. None have been recorded as taking human form.
9. Fossil evidence suggests that bats were probably flying around when dinosaurs roamed the earth 65 million years ago. It is only recent human activity, such as removing hedgerows and using chemicals on crops that is endangering their survival.
10. Not only do bats sleep upside down but most of them also rest, mate and even give birth upside down.
11. Baby bats are called pups and, like humans, bats normally give birth to one baby at a time or occasionally twins (although humans aren’t usually upside down at the time).
12. The world’s smallest bat is called Kitti’s hog-nosed bat and it is as light as a bumble bee.
13. The world’s largest bat is the giant golden-crowned flying fox, which has a wingspan of up to 6 feet.
14. Natural habitats for bats include hedgerows woodlands and near to ponds – that’s why we have bats at our forest locations.
15. Bats are nocturnal and they hibernate during winter, venturing out for a drink if the weather is mild. The best time to see them is from May to September on warm nights, just after sunset.
16. Over 500 plant species rely on bats to pollinate them, including species of mango, cocoa and banana.
17. Bats in the UK are Indicator Species - the mine canaries of biodiversity. Changes in the bat population highlight imbalances in nature such as a decline in insect numbers or destruction of wildlife habitats.
18. All bats in the UK are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside act, 1981.
19. For tiny mammals bats can live surprisingly long lives. If they can survive their first winter, 5 or 6 years is usual for a pipistrelle but some species may live over 30 years.
20. Known as the 'water bat', Daubenton's bats fish insects from the water's surface with their large feet or tail. You can spot them in action at Deerpark.
There are still a couple of months during which you can see the bats at Forest Holidays. When you book your cabin, make sure you also book to go out with the Forest Ranger and you will find out more Bat Facts as well as seeing them in action.
How the year looks to a bat:
• In April bats come out from hibernation.
• In May female bats start forming maternal colonies.
• In June they give birth.
• In July they nurture their young (with milk of course – they are mammals).
• In August the pups take to the wing and start catching their own dinner.
• In September and October it’s the mating season
• In November it’s back into hibernation for the winter.