Saturday, 7 December 2013


Watching out for bats of an evening can be a bit of a dark art. I have technology in the form of an ultrasonic bat detector to tell us when they are about at night. Some bat species can be identified from their calls, but most of them require a sighting. So sometimes on a clear night you can see them going in and around building and trees. As for actually identifying a particular species in the old days you needed to catch one.

Now to catch or handle a bat, you need to be trained, licenced and to have had a course of rabies injections. Even then a bat in the hand can still be very difficult to identify. Now the world of DNA analysis has changed all that. No longer do bats need to be caught to ascertain with some certainty a true identification.

Now, all you need to collect is a sample of bat poo.  Just one simple dropping can give you the identity of the bat down to species level. For years I have been looking at pipistrelle bats and identifying them from their size and flight characteristics.  Differenciating between the two, by the frequency of the sound they use when hunting. (Common and Soprano Pipistrelle)  However, now things have changed and there are three pipistrelles now being recorded instead of two (Common, Soprano and Nathusius pipistrelle) 

Nathusius pipistrelle

The Nathusius pipistrelle species may be more widely distributed in the UK than previously thought. For those of you with a bat detector. The soprano calls are centred around 55khz. The common pipistrelle calls are centred around 46khz and the Nathusius calls are centred around 39khz.

Not only that, but we also have evidence of an entirely new species (Alcathoe’s bat) being identified as roosting within this country. Researchers led by Prof. John Altringham and Prof. Roger Butlin have identified Myotis alcathoe or Alcathoe bat for the first time in the UK.

Alcathoe bat is relatively new to science being first identified in 2001.  It is thought that Alcathoe bat has been here in the UK for generations and has only recently been identified due to its similarity to other native bat species. The Whiskered and Brandt's bats.  This new discovery takes the total number of bat species in the UK to 17, making up around a third of all our mammal species.

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