On a beautiful balmy evening in October we gathered at Ransoms Pavilion for our annual Bat Walk and talk, hosted by local bat expert Roger Havard of the Herts and Middlesex Bat Group.
Once everyone had been primed with tea, juice and biscuits, Roger held us enthralled with engaging descriptions and facts about these fascinating nocturnal creatures. Questions thrown out to younger members of the audience (eg what do bats eat? what are they covered with - scales, feathers or fur? etc) kept everyone focussed throughout. Roger illustrated the talk with cut-outs of the world's largest and smallest bats, and at the very end we were all treated to a close-up look at some of his rescue bats.
By the time it was nearly dark outside, we were all ready to walk around the Rec armed with Roger's sonic bat detector machines, which slow down the high-pitched sound of a bat echo-locating its prey, into something audible by the human ear. Almost immediately we heard and saw our first bat just outside the Pavilion, whizzing past a lamppost where insects were gathering, attracted by the light. This was a Common Pipistrelle and we saw and heard several more of these, as we strolled around the Rec.
The best places for spotting bats seemed to be near the lime trees along the bottom of the railway embankment, in the Triangle Garden, and along the riverbank, where there are plenty of insects. We also heard a Soprano Pipistrelle up by the allotments - this has a higher pitched call than the Common Pipistrelle, hence its name. Both are very common bats in the UK, although all bats are protected by law as many species are endangered (and it is hard for a non-expert to tell them apart).
As always this was a thoroughly enjoyable and informative evening, made all the more exciting by the presence of so many bats this year. If you would like to know more about bats or have any need of bat expertise - for example if you come across an injured bat - please visit http://hmbg.org.uk/ We intend to book Roger for next year, so don't despair if you missed this year's event.