Thursday 29 August 2013

Foulridge Tunnel Bats.

I have a great experience to report.

Early this afternoon we went through Foulridge Tunnel on the Leeds Liverpool canal. Just over the border into Lancashire. Foulridge is almost a mile long with several ventilation shafts. Just after entering the portal, we became aware of bats. Because we have a bow light to illuminate our way through the tunnel. Shining upwards to give an arc over the roof that we can aim the bow at.

We keep the back of the boat in complete darkness with internal lights turned off. We don't use a light on the back deck, as an aid to improving night vision. We had a wonderful display of Daubenton's some so close that you could almost reach out and touch them. At first I thought we had disturbed a roost. Then I realised that they were hunting some tiny insects being drawn to our bow light. I can only assume that there was a hatch of insects taking place inside the tunnel. 

The bats were also overtaking us from the back which makes me feel that it was not a disturbance but actual serious feeding. Three other boats behind were also observing good numbers of bats. We enjoyed the experience so much, we turned around and did the passage again. This is the first time I have seen this sort of behaviour. We have passed through 26 major canal tunnels in the last three years some almost three miles long. I have often wondered about bats in the tunnels, but never spotted any before. Today it was a spectacular experience.

I estimate that there were up to 20 individuals. We also had a fleeting glimpse of one individual that seemed to be half as big again as the daubenton's. It came straight up the tunnel passing close to the roof (about 6 feet overhead) and passed us at a good speed, it did not seem to be hunting like the others. The bats went to within about 50 yards of the exit, before passing back into the tunnel over our heads.

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