Sunday, 20 December 2009


Beautiful sculpture but the image seems to play on the idea that bats are unclean. Kate D MacDowell

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Bat moments

Memorable bat moments are not just huge numbers of bats or seeing rare species. One of my best bat experiences this year was sitting by a tarn just after sunset, watching Daubenton’s clearly visible gaffing insects from the surface of the water in the still pink light. What made it more enjoyable was having fellow bat enthusiasts to share the moment with.  SP.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Boat sail - bat wing

Found this site, Transition Rig, ages ago.

Not poetry corner

I'm not goint to start posting my poetry here on a regular basis but I wrote this a few months ago and don't know what else to do with it.  No title but I think that you will guess what it's about.

Whilst some fear you
For your black coat, and your silent hunting
I fear that one day, you won't be there

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Are bats sensitive to sound disturbance?

As we all know, bats are very sensitive to noise disturbance, particularly when in a maternity roost. Imagine my surprise then, to find a pipistrelle maternity roost right behind the speakers at an outward bounds centre games room. They could clearly be seen and the droppings were spilling onto the seats underneath. The speakers were used weekly for the groups’ disco.  SP.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


I have just changed the settings so anyone can comment without having to subscribe or log in.

Wind generators II

This is one of the more informative explanations.

Wind generators

Just found this link regarding bat fatalities.  I have read so many strange explanations for these incidents, including one that described "the bats wing had been chopped clean off" as though the turbine blades were made from kitchen knives, that I am sometimes left in disbelief.  Are these reports genuine or have they been made up by campaigners against wind farms? Any comments? 

So you think you’ve got bats

This summer there was an urgent call to the helpline. A woman had found a dead bat in a bedroom and heard squeaking near the window. A builder was booked to repair the gap in the window casing and replace the window frame, so she wanted to make sure no harm was going to come to the bats. The whole bedroom and loft were searched for the squeaking bats to no avail. There were three droppings on the window pane and a nice gap in the south-facing sandstone coping, so Andy sat outside in anticipation of a roost full of bats emerging. A few bats buzzed past but disappointingly none emerged from the gap. The builder was given the go-ahead to proceed with caution. The clues were all there but we still hadn’t found the roost. The householder was asked to keep an eye out for the bats and see if she could work out where they were coming from. She sent a sheepish email a few days later. She had identified the source of the squeaking: her rubber gloves.   SP.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Cumbrian mine

The Hairdressers & the bat No 2

Alison’s parents have been married for 40 years. In all that time, apart from occasional visits to hospital, they have never slept apart. One evening they were settling into bed when her mother noticed a bat on the bedroom door. “Get it out of here!” she demanded. “Ignore it,” her husband responded heroically “It’ll be gone in the morning” And for the first time in 40 years, Mr & Mrs slept in separate bedrooms.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

A few pictures look good on the blog, so here's one of a roof.

The Hairdresser & the bat No 1

One morning the hairdressers went to open up their Cockermouth shop as usual. Noticing a crumpled leaf on the ground, Alison went to pick it up. To her shock and horror the leaf moved and squeaked at her, revealing itself to be a very frightening tiny little bat. The two women immediately shut themselves into the shop to prevent the bat from getting at them. Frantically they gesticulated to a gallant passerby. After a lot of miming of bats and doorsteps, he understood that they were trapped inside the building by the rogue bat and went to rescue them, only to find the bat had already made its own way off. Thus it was that the two hairdressers were trapped in a building by a bat that wasn’t there.

Can't wait for the next post from Sally.

Slovakia trip update 2009

Once again there were two trips to Slovakia. The trip in May went to Eastern Slovakia, where we saw several colonies of lovely panda-faced grey long-eared bats in churches. One of the highlights was mistnetting at a housing estate just behind Lidl. The nets were set very high (above the front door, with a constant flow of people wandering in and out, telling us their recommendations for catching bats). The nets were rigged with a person permanently at each end so that when a bat was caught the whole net was lowered in order to extract it.

We adjourned to Lidl to examine the bats under the shop light. There were three beautiful blond furred bats with distinct white trailing edge on the wings: Kuhli’s pipistrelle. If one of them ever found its way to the UK we’d know straight away it wasn’t one of our common or garden pips. However, the species was only recently identified in Slovakia. Perhaps we should try mistnetting behind Lidl in Carlisle…

The August trip returned to swarming sites, the most successful evening seeing 14 species being caught at one cave. A banded Mediterranean horseshoe bat was caught that was confirmed to be 12 years old. There will be 2 more trips next year, in May and September.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

© Sam Griffin 2008

Carnivorous bats

This subject was discussed on Radio 4’s World On The Move. The story was initially released early in 2007.

The Doñana National Park, in the south west corner of Spain is the first (or last) landfall for millions of migrating birds. It is almost an island, with no residents and public access restricted to just a few days each year. It has been described as Europe’s only truly natural wild landscape.

In 2001, Carlos Ibáñez and his colleagues in the Doñana Biological Station in Sevilla, suggested that the giant noctule bat or Nyctalus lasiopterus may be hunting small migratory birds. The initial evidence came from faeces samples that contained feathers. It was accepted that this was not proof and some suggested that the bats may have mistaken falling feathers for insects. In 2003 the team in Sevilla started taking blood samples from the bats for isotope testing. Isotopes in the blood show which food has been eaten. It was found that the bats ate mainly insects, but during the spring and autumn migrations higher levels of carbon-13 and nitrogen-15 showed that they also ate birds.

It is assumed that those bird that fly at night, possibly to avoid hawks are in fact easy prey for the giant noctule. The kills appear to happen at high altitude well out of range of a detector and they appear to devour the birds whilst flying. The researchers reported a few instances where carcases had fallen out of the sky all in similar condition, with the breast torn off their body.

First published in the Autumn 08 Newsletter.

Studying bats will help us live to 1000

Dr. Aubrey De Grey, specialist in biomedical gerontology (study of ageing) has been quoted “humans could live to 1000 years old”. His research has investigated the ageing process in numerous animals and insects such as the short lived, flies and long lived, tortoises. He suggests that the ageing process is closely linked to the age of sexual maturity and that this is part of the process of evolution. The longer it takes to mature, the better it is for the species to live as long as possible. This is a feature usually found in larger creatures such as elephants, apes and humans. Generally longevity is the preserve of larger creatures.

There are exceptions. The hydra, a small aquatic worm, reaches maturity in three days but can live four to five years. And surprisingly the bat. We know that this varies from species to species, but some bats can reach maturity in one year and live possibly as much as 40 years. If we were to apply a similar maturity-lifespan ratio to humans we could expect a life of 480 years.

On BBC Radio4’s Questions Questions, Dr. Aubrey De Grey said there is “excitement & interest” regarding bats and gerontology. Their long life span is exceptional for a small mammal, especially considering their very high metabolic rate. Similar small mammals such as mice or the shrew reproduce at a young age and in great numbers, making up for their short life. If there is an identifiable factor that can be that can be attributed to bats longevity, this may be of great importance to medical treatment of humans.

First published in the Autumn 08 Newsletter.

Sticks like ...

This tenacious piece of bat poo stuck onto my windscreen for two days and over 150 miles before rain washed it off overnight.
First published in the Autumn 08 Newsletter.

Rainforest regeneration

There is a short article in the 19 April 2008 issue of New Scientist about the importance of bats in the regeneration of tropical rainforest. A Google search found that the research paper was published in Biotropica, Journal of tropical biology and conservation, volume 39, issue 4, July 2007. The abstract is copied below verbatim.
“To assess the impact of bats on seed dispersal in a tropical mature forest (Nouragues, French Guiana), we conducted a bat exclusion experiment and tested the hypotheses that an artificial reduction in the abundance of bats would result in: (1) a decrease in seed species diversity, at the community level; and (2) an increase in seed limitation (a failure of seeds to reach all suitable sites for germination) at the species level. Seed rain was sampled in two contiguous forest plots for a total of 120 d, using 49 seed traps (1 m2) arranged in 7 × 7 grids and spaced at 5-m intervals. Using mist nets, bat activity was reduced in one forest plot for a total of 60 nights. Thirty-nine plant species, or species groups, likely to be consumed and dispersed by bats, were collected within a total sample of 50,063 seeds. The overall seed rain was dominated by epiphytic Araceae and Cyclanthaceae (83.3%) and tree species within the genera Cecropia and Ficus (16.0%). Seeds from bat-dispersed shrubs and treelets (Piper, Solanum, and Vismia) were relatively rare (0.7%). The bat exclusion resulted in a 30.5 percent reduction in seed species richness and increased seed limitation for most of the species sampled. Seed limitation was caused mainly by a reduced seed rain (seed source limitation) rather than a decrease in seed dispersal uniformity (seed dispersal limitation). Therefore, bat-dispersed plants with low seed production are likely to be particularly affected by a decline in bat abundance, as a result of anthropogenic change.”

Citation: Mickaël Henry, Sylvie Jouard (2007) Effect of Bat Exclusion on Patterns of Seed Rain in Tropical Rain Forest in French Guiana.
Biotropica 39 (4) , 510–518 doi:10.1111/j.1744-7429.2007.00286.x
First published in the Spring 08 Newsletter.

The Word is Bats

Long before Bat Man hit newstands in Main Street, USA, bats had been fluttering through history onto the pages of books world-wide; from the Odyssey and the Old Testament to Ovid; to La Fontaine and Oliver Goldsmith, Baudelaire and Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson and Bram Stoker. In cave paintings, and poems, in comics and films, in stories and cautionary tales, the bat hangs, motif and metaphor, sometimes portent or icon. This flying mammal tells the ancient bard, the shaman, the reader and the writer much about ourselves.

Ulysses tossed between Scylla and Charybydis held on to a fig tree like a bat. Other observers in antiquity did not esteem bats so highly. Deemed unclean in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, creatures of darkness classed with moles by the prophet Isaiah nor did they impress Baruch in old Babylon, where he slammed the local priesthood for having bats swallows and birds on their heads like Philip Treacey hats.

And then, Herodotus (c.484-425 B.C,) first of historians, reported the troglodytes of Libya spoke in bat-like squeaks. Ovid, the Roman poet, exiled to Tomis on the Black Sea, completed his Metamorphoses at the time of the birth of Christ. . One of his tales, reworking older folklore, tells of the daughters of King Mynas of Orchomneos, changed into bats for offending the god Bacchus.

For so much in this summary, I am greatly indebted to the late Denise Tupinier - La Chauve-Souris et LHomme (1989) . A chapter entitled Littrature explains how the bat is embedded in many texts both serious and profane. Her list begins with a medieval naturalist, Phillipe de Thaon followed by a Renaissance poet, Jean de Baf. Next the fabulist Jean La Fontaine (1621-1695) who has several moral tales (adapted from Aesops Fables) such as The Bat and The Two Weasels. The roll-call continues with Loti, Baudelaire, and Laforgue. All of these must surely be second to Robert de Montesqiou (1855 -1921), an exotic poet who published a whole collection Les chauves-souris in 1892. For him, bats were alter egos for eccentric and effeminate men - Louis II of Bavaria was an example of great human bats! De Montesqiou was part of the literary circle of Marcel Proust; the latter once wrote to him - I am hanging from the wings of your Chauves-souris !.Are these the only poems set to music ? The composer. Leon Delafosse, performed them at an exclusive Paris salon in May 1894. At least, contrary to the negative connotations of bats in Western Europe, Montesqiou knew of the Sino/Japanese regard for bats. The Chinese word fu translates as both happiness and bat; in Japanese it is for, which is the title of a Montesqiou poem.

While Denise Tupinier quotes that poem in full, only La Fontaine is represented in the 2007 anthology On A Bats Wing, The anthology contains poems from 70 poets covering a time span of 450 years. (As editor I declare my interest in the bats of poetry).

Poetry is the place where the bat swoops into the best literary roost, far easier to look out at the night sky and be inspired, than to work a bat into a fictional plot. For Irish poet, Michael Longley, bats are 'wonderful, beautiful, humbling creatures; perhaps the defining words for the poet at his desk, or watching in his garden.

Early examples of poems include this lovely haiku from Taniguchi Buson (1717-1784)...'Darting here and there /the bat is exploring/the moonlit plum. Another Japanese word for bat is Komori which also means umbrella. This is the image Emily Dickinson ( 1830-1886) used to describe the bat of her poem. His small Umbrella quaintly halved

But don’t lets be elitist about bats and books. Literature embraces graphic novel and strip cartoon, song lyrics and operatic libretti . So, several cheers for Batman who appeared in Detective Comics of May 1939 as The Bat Man; to be joined by Robin in 1940. Enduring heroes of the Golden Age of Comic Books, they are alive, well and forever young. The Batman Archives run to 7 volumes, and when the writers realised women and girls read these comics, Batgirl joined the team in 1967.

In 1937 comic strips featured Ching Lung a villain in the style of the legendary Dr. Fu Manchu. The sinister doctor was the invention of Sax Rohmer whose books are still in print, Bat Wing (1927) uses the bat as a harbinger of doom. Here is the occult detective Paul Harley at the crime scene ... this thing is the wing of a Desmodus or Vampire Bat... the presence of a living vampire bat in Surrey is not to be anticipated.. In Surrey, no, but in Transylvania. Certainly. Rohmer would have known Dracula (1897 ) and how to exploit the nasty side of bats.

Bram Stoker was not original. He had forbears in Sheridan Le Fanus Carmilla (1871). All one needs to know about lesbian vampires (!). In turn, Le Fanu was anticipated by Dr John Polidori. one of the Shelley/Byron circle in Geneva ( where Frankenstein starts his compelling journey as a drawing room ghost story). He published his contribution The Vampyre in 1819.

Crossing the Atlantic Mark Twains hero Tom Sawyer had a bat encounter which ended happily. Lost in McDougalls Cave with Becky Thatcher, the pair struggle to find the exit: the cave was full of bats... and one followed them on their way out until at last they got rid of the perilous thing.

Bats in fiction differ from bats in poetry. Not wonderful, beautiful or humbling, but troublesome, portentous and downright scary; nowhere more true than in that well known rock anthem by Meat Loaf Bat out of Hell .

When the night is over
Like a bat out of hell Ill be gone gone gone
Like a bat out of hell Ill be gone when the morning comes

After that savage lyric it is a relief to know P.G. Wodehouse saw the funny side of those perilous things - no vampires at Blandings. Bats are, he wrote, notoriously among the less intellectually gifted of Gods creatures. Show me a bat, says the old proverb, and I will show you something that ought to be in some kind of home .The erudite crime writer Reg Hill, creator of Dalziel and Pascoe, knows his bats. In Bones and Silence (1991) bat droppings are the key to unmasking the killer. Bats said the girl. What ? Pipistrelles, I think they call them While intellectually one hundred per cent in favour of the rights of bats, the thought of actually touching them filled him (Pascoe) with horror....

Many children's books feature bats but none compare with Randall Jarrells The Bat Poet
To be sure, to be sure, said the mocking bird. I enjoyed your poem very much. When you’ve made up some more do come round and say me another. The bat said that he would and fluttered home to his rafters.
One can only agree with Professor John Altringham when he writes that The Bat Poet captures much of the real essence of a bat - the bat seeks to tell others through his poems how he sees the world.

If only Beatrix Potter had written, say, The Tale of Barnaby Bat, Jarrell and his illustrator, Maurice Sendak, may have had a rival. But in the end, for me , the best of bats swarm in the poetry. Their specialness is the inspiration linking Shakespeare with Ted Hughes. Between these two bookends, there are Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll and Ogden Nash: D.H Lawrence who had an unpleasant time in Florence: Les Murray who dreamed himself into bats ultra-sound; and John Berryman. He applauded them since they paid no tax.

Theodor Roethke was drawn to their human face; George MacBeth knew bats were city gents on the Underground ...strap hangers without an Evening Standard between them Seamus Heaney talks to bats near a Belfast railway bridge: Cling there/as long as you want. There is nothing to hide.

Nothing to hide. The bat-world lives visibly and audibly in the written word: unique, omnipresent, and wonderfully reassuring in this time of doubt.

Michael Baron.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

First contact

I am finding it difficult to make the time to complete the next newsletter. So I have swept all the (virtual) paperwork off my desk(top) and decided to blog. I will start with the previous newsletters and gradually add new articles bit by bit. Sally has already sent some posts which will go on as and when. Bookmark the page and visit regularly. If you have contributions email me or add comments.