Posts Tagged ‘bats’

Did you guess what Mammal species this morning’s picture was of? It’s a…. Long Eared Bat Pup!

Brown long-eared bats, as their name suggests, have strikingly large ears. These large appendages are three quarters the length of the bat’s head and body. When resting, the bats fold their ears and hold them backwards. They have a slow and fluttering flight, often close to the ground, which makes them vulnerable to predation from domestic cats. In the summer, they roost in tree holes, bat and bird boxes and attics. In the winter, they hibernate in cellars, tunnels and caves, usually alone.

Click here for some great BBC videos & information on Long-eared Bats.

Long-eared Bat Pup


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David Brown of the Avon Bat Group leads out an intrepid gang of bat watchers at Bristol BioBlitz: one of our Meet the Species feature events!

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Our cities and countryside are leading a double life, as the sun goes down and you draw the curtains, different species are emerging, there are different predators and different prey, with different shapes dominating the skies.  Being glimpsed dimly at dusk makes it all too easy for this nocturnal wildlife to be overlooked or even misunderstood and feared.  And arguably bats are the most mysterious and misunderstood mammals of all. But for the curious it is this mystery that attracts you, in the bat world discoveries are still to be made and adventures are on your doorstep.

As recently as 2010 a new species, Alcathoe bat, was found to be living here in the UK, doubtlessly it had been here unnoticed for years, having been mistaken for its similar looking cousin.  It seems bats keep a lot of secrets. In the Bat Conservation Trust’s mission to secure fragile bat populations, volunteers and staff set out to discover more about bats and how use the landscape.  Each summer thousands of people go out at night to experience this nocturnal world first hand and count bats for the National Bat Monitoring Programme.  Some volunteers will use a bat detector to pick-up and listen to the different echolocation calls bats make to find their way and catch their insect prey,  the different frequencies and sounds can help identify the 18 different UK bat species.   As well as taking action to conserve bat populations and landscapes we also work to inspire people about bats and their environment.   I often find that once people are out face to face with the nature of the night it soon dispels myths and misunderstanding without losing any of the magic and mystery.

Bat flying at night in Baildon UK by sgwarnog2010 Flicr

That bats have remained mysterious (even to those that study them) is unusual given that bats have adapted to live right alongside us in rural and urban areas.  Some species share our homes and buildings, and there aren’t many rare and endangered mammals that will grace your home with their presence (a panda in the porch anyone?) but bats will.  In this and in so many ways bats are unique, the only true flying mammal, masters of the dark skies, how could you resist a visit to their night-time world? And just imagine the mysteries and secrets that are waiting to be revealed when you get there.  To share bat sightings, find local bat hotspots and events visit at www.bigbatmap.org

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For each of our 12 themed finale days, we are setting you a challenge to work out what species our photograph is of. In the morning, we’ll be posting a close up photograph of part of the species. You’ll have all day to try and work out what it is before we post the whole picture later that afternoon. Good luck!

Tweet us your answer @MeettheSpecies, leave a comment below or facebook us (links on the right!)

So here’s your challenge for the day, and don’t forget that this species can only be a MAMMAL species….

(Unfortunately we are unable to award Richard Comont with any points/ kudos for guessing the species correctly as he is far too good at this game!)

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Hugh Warwick



I have been studying our only prickly mammal over the last 25 years. Initially I was working as an ecologist, looking at how they behaved, but the more time I spent with them in their nocturnal world, the more I realised that these charismatic beasts were actually rather special.

I helped stop the cull of hedgehogs up in the Outer Hebrides (they were accused of eating eggs of ground-nesting birds) – proving that they could moved to the mainland without the sorts of problems that the authorities imagined. And through this I began to work more closely with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk) and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (http://www.ptes.org)

Hugh meets a hedgehog pal

We were all getting worried about hedgehogs. The population seemed to be in decline from all the surveys we had run, so we handed all the data we had over to the statisticians at the British Trust for Ornithology and they gave us a dramatic answer. Conservatively the number of hedgehogs in Britain has fallen 25% in the last 10 years alone. And the fall before that is likely to have been as dramatic, but we did not have the data.

One of the main problems is habitat fragmentation – the splitting up of good hedgehog habitat into smaller pieces with roads, industrial farming, housing and even changes in gardens. With this in mind we launched Hedgehog Street (http://www.hedgehogstreet.org) and have already recruited nearly 23,000 households to the cause. You can see it on Countryfile this Sunday (BBC 1, 1930) – and learn how to make your garden more hedgehog friendly, and, most importantly realise that however hedgehog friendly it is, it is useless unless hedgehogs can get in! So, get talking to your neighbours about making holes in the fence!

Why should we care so much? Well, as I mentioned at the beginning, they are a very important species. We could just look at their diet of macro-invertebrates – things like slugs and snails – to see how great they are to have in the garden. We could also consider that they are yet another piece of the great web of life. Imagine your favourite jumper – it can cope with a few moth holes, but there comes a time when a hole appears in just the wrong place and everything begins to unravel; well, that is like the ecosystem. And we can never know which is the crucial piece of the puzzle.

But that is not why I think they are so important. Hedgehogs give us a chance to see a really wild animal at close quarters. There are very few other beasts out there with which we can get so close – I have been nose-to-nose with a hedgehog, looking into its beady, bright eyes. I first did it with a hedgehog called Nigel. As it happened it dawned on me that the large conservation and wildlife charities have got it wrong. We are not going to be seduced into loving the natural world through the charismatic mega fauna, the lions and whales. That is like assuming we will form meaningful relationships with the people pictured in Heat or Hello magazines.

The Big Issue- Hugh talks hedgehogs

We are going to fall in love with the girl or the boy next door – not an A-List member of the charismatic mega-fauna of celebrity. And the hedgehog is the animal equivalent. We actually have a chance to get close to and understand a little about the hedgehog. So, if you meet one, get down on your tummy, get nose-to-nose and look for the glint of wild in its eyes. And then, just possibly, you will be seduced into really falling in love with the world around you.

Hugh Warwick is the author of A Prickly Affair and, most recently, The Beauty in the Beast. He also maintains an active and eccentric blog: http://www.urchin.info

Thank you Hugh Warwick for all of your great contributions and continued support! You can follow Hugh on twitter @hedgehoghugh

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Yesterday we got scaley and slippery with reptiles and amphibians with Dr ‘Rhys to the Rescue’ Jones delivering his beautiful Grass Snake story, Discovering Dragons with FrogLife and learning how to swab a toad….and why with ARG-UK and the Zoological Society of London.

Today with swith scales for fur as we explore the mysterious world of mammals.

Day 11 – Super Furries – Mammals

We’re almost at the finishing line, and today it’s all about our furry friends the mammals. Much loved but sometimes hard to spot, mammals are increasingly under threat so this survey is important for their future. All but 2 species have been ticked off our list, but if you live in the right area we’d love to know if you’ve found a red squirrel or harvest mouse!

Red Squirrel – photo courtesy Alastair Rae

Hugh Warwick is a self-confessed hedgehog lover, as well as an ecologist and writer, and would (and frequently does) argue that they are the most important creatures on the planet – see what he has to say…

Hedgehog – photo courtesy Xwiz

Many mammals share our increasingly urban lifestyle – including foxes, badgers and bats, and you can help make your garden that bit more mammal friendly by helping out Hugh’s spiny favourite, or even get your whole street involved by joining Hedgehog Street!

If you’re not lucky enough to see the mammal itself you may get good at spotting its tracks, or a wisp of hair on a fence or a slight mammaly smell in the air!

We think this is a Daubentons Bat but not certain – tweet us your suggestions! @meetthespecies – photo courtesy Hilary Chambers

This weekend happens to be International Bat Weekend and we’ll be joined by Bat Conservation Trust to celebrate these amazing flying mammals and take a look back at our Batty activities.

So follow the race here and…

  • Hear all about Hugh Warwick’s passion for hedgehogs
  • Join the Avon Bat Group on a graveyard Bat Walk
  • Get tracking and learn some tricks of the trade
  • See some amazing camera trap footage of UK mammals
  • Make your garden hog friendly and join the Hedgehog Street movement
  • Discover which species we’re still looking for
  • Get more info on the amazing mammals on the list
  • Find out about iSpot and how to record your all-important finds

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Here at Meet the Species HQ, we have had an amazing time searching for wildlife all over the UK, so we decided to each do a blogpost about our favourite wildlife experience whilst working on the project. Eleanor got up to her elbows in pond dipping at Wilderness festival and loved it!

Whilst working on the Meet the Species project, my knowledge of wildlife and nature has come in leaps and bounds. Not only have I picked up a plethora of fascinating facts from the naturalists we’ve worked with, but I have learnt that to fully appreciate your natural surroundings the most beneficial thing you can do is engage all of your senses. Getting stuck in, wading through the underbrush, crouching low enough so that your chin is touching the ground, looking up at the trees and the sky forgetting all else around you can be highly therapeutic. I’ve learnt to use my ears to pick up on the noises and calls of birds and insects, my nose to smell out plants and trees, my eyes to seek the tiniest of creatures, my touch to identify the texture, size and armour of trees and mammals. It’s exciting that you can find species wherever you may look, even whilst surrounded by urban civilisation and the humdrum of large gatherings of people.

My favourite Meet the Species memory, has got to be the pond dipping we were able to do at Wilderness Festival. Everything from the amble down to the ponds, to the cluster of heads peering closer to see the tiniest of insects, had memories of my childhood embedded in them. The poetic sight of children and adults wading through long grasses carrying bug pots and pond dipping nets, had me reciting “We’re going on a bear hunt….” In my head!

Pond Dipping at Wilderness

Beneath the calm and reflective surface of our destination, the hub of live activity is astonishing. The children take it in turns to swoop and sweep their nets back and forth, like birds searching for a feast from above. We huddle closely to eye up the winnings, some expecting toads and fish but being met by a tank full of micro civilisation. Pond shrimp, water skaters, blood sucking worms, a terrific mix of insects and bugs can definitely come up trumps. We all join in a chorus of what, who, where, when, why and how. The group is collectively thirsty for more information on this alien environment, which is all part and parcel of our own magnified lifecycle.

In our urban habitats we’re surrounded by opportunity, green spaces, parks, ponds, rivers, but this friendly access and insight into pond life is like a confidence boost, disguised as a guide. I like watching people come out of their own shells. Parents, who come on our pond dipping walks, solely to accompany their offspring, transform into inquisitive participants, children who resent their parents for dragging them along quickly become eager to showcase their findings with parents. A net will never be pulled in empty. Everyone is a winner in our race to find species.

My favourite find at Wilderness was the parasitic wasp, which lays eggs into the greater pond snail’s (Lymnaea Stagnalis) shell. The wasp then grows whilst eating the snail from the inside out. It sounds like a torturous process but a wily and clever way for the wasp to thrive. If the Meet the Species project was a pond snail, and the public were parasitic wasps, then the idea of people joining in, hitching a ride, and hungrily eating all knowledge we can offer from inside the project, then the parasitic wasp seems like a brilliant metaphor for the perfect participant!

If you fancy a go at pond dipping yourself, why not take part in Pond Conservations’ Big Pond Dip!

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