Thursday, 20 August 2015

Day 283 - Positively Beautiful Pipistrelle Bats

Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)
Hey everyone, it's Day 283 and I've got a species here I haven't covered before. I saw this when I was on a walk on holiday around the place where I stayed, Kelling Heath. It's a great place with lots of woodland and heaths and they do great nature walks. The one I went on was at dusk and we went out looking for Bats!

We started off at a pond where they like to feed. There are bat boxes all over the site and we were really lucky to see some Pipistrelles emerging from some boxes right by where we were. They were great to watch flying around, even more agile than yesterdays Little Terns. We had bat detectors too and you could hear their echo location. I learnt a lot like how you can tell when they catch an insect by the way the beeps got closer and closer together, it's a great noise and good fun watching and listening to them.

Discovering the grounded Pipistrelle
There was more excitement to come though as we saw something the walk leader had never seen before. Very unusually for a bat he said, one had got something wrong and ended up on the ground. That was great for me to be able to get these photos but bad for the bat as they can't get themselves back into the air from the ground, their wings connect their fingers to their legs. As you can't handle bats as they are a protected species the walk leader found some pieces of cardboard. The Bat happily climbed on and with help from the walk leader and Dad they got it quite high up in a tree. In a flash it launched itself off the tree and flew off. A happy ending!

So what else did I find out on my walk and from my research? Well here it is:
  • The Common Pipistrelle is the smallest bat in the UK. It is only 3-5cm long but has a wingspan of 19-25cm.
  • They weigh just 3-9g!
  • Unlike bird's feathers bats wings are solid. Their fingers have evolved to be long and thin and have skin between them that makes their wings.
    Rescue in progress!
  • This means that they can fly more strongly than birds as they get power on the downstroke and upstroke of their flight.
  • They are very, very agile and flit about quickly chasing insects. They way the Pipistrelle flies was the reason the old English name for bats was Flittermouse!
  • In a night's feeding these bats can eat 3000 insects!
  • They like to live in a variety of habitats including  wetlands, mature woodlands, grasslands, farms, parks and gardens. They like open grassy areas surrounded by trees or bushes. 
  • Pipistrelles are found across most of the UK and are quite widespread in Europe too.  We like watching them above the field behind our house and often go out with our detector at dusk.
  • Closely related to them is the Soprano Pipistrelle bat. This is so similar that you can only tell them apart by their higher frequency echo location. People used to think they were both the same species. I watched some of these at Kelling but didn't see them as close as the Common Pipistrelle!
  • Bats aren't doing very well, their numbers have fallen a lot in the last century. This is due to loss of habitat and roosting spaces. On the Kelling walk I heard this might be because of the way we build houses now and that there aren't so many places for them to roost, and chemicals in our buildings aren't good for them.
  • Changes in the countryside aren't helping either, habitats like hedgerows, woodland and ponds are being lost. Use of pesticides also reduces the number of insects available for them to eat.
A little close up!
  • Bats don't reproduce quickly. Females gather in maternity colonies and give birth to a single baby in June or July. The babies are fed milk until they can fly (about four weeks) and forage for themselves (about six weeks).
  • Our bat expert was really worried that his grandchildren might not see bats flying around the way that we have :-(
  • They are only active for part of the year as they hibernate in the winter. They hibernate singly or in small groups in crevices in buildings or trees and in bat boxes.
  • All species of Bat in the UK are protected species and if you have a roost in your house you have to get special advice before you do any work that might affect them. My Nana had a roost once in her old house but they only stayed a while before they moved on but she did get advice on them.

Well, there's lots of information out there on these great little creatures, try these sites if you want to know more:

By the way, off to Bird Fair for a couple of days so might not get to do posts for a day or two depending on access to technology.

Hope you enjoyed todays post,



  1. Lovely little bats! One got into my parents' bedroom one night during the Summer, they're so sweet. - Tasha

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