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Bat Walk - Rothbury

Bat Walk - Rothbury

Sun 5th August 2012

This was the first ever Bat Walk we have done so Shepherds Walk’s teamed up with Rob Caton from Wild Harmony.

After meeting everybody at Rothbury Tourist Information Centre we walked down to Tomlinsons Cafe in Rothbury. In Tomlinsons we had set up a short presentation of the habitats, breeds and conservation that bats live in. Rob went through this and his vast knowledge and enthusiasm was second to none.

There are 18 species of bats living in the UK (17 of which are known to breed here). Some of the bat species are very rare. The bats have remarkable navigation system called echolocation and this is what we were hoping to hear with the use of the bat detectors.

With bat detectors in hand, we set off along the banks of the River Coquet. The bat detectors convert their pitch to an audible frequency for humans and this sound changes as the bat feeds to a more buzzing noise, rather than the clicking sound that we hear when they are navigating. Using this method the bat can also determine where the object is, how big it is and in what direction it is moving. The bat can tell if an insect is to the right or left by comparing when the sound reaches its right ear to when the sound reaches its left ear: If the sound of the echo reaches the right ear before it reaches the left ear, the insect is obviously to the right. The bat's ears have a complex collection of folds that help it determine an insect's vertical position. Echoes coming from below will hit the folds of the outer ear at a different point than sounds coming from above, and so will sound different when they reach the bat's inner ear. It’s all very interesting stuff.

Initially we could just see birds feeding on the insects flying high with just one bat spotted; this was going to be a long night.

But as we hit the stepping stones area of the River Coquet everything changed. There’s a bat and another and yet another.

Initially they flew high but over a five minute period the bats where now flying and feeding just inches above the river, descending over our heads.

The bat detectors were buzzing and clicking away and the feeding bats and the whole group was totally drawn in by the excitement of the bats flying all around. As it was still dusk we could see the bats clearly and even identify some of the breeds, it was a real experiencing especially as the passed our heads from the higher ground around, heading for the river at our feet. There were plenty of insects about so rightly the bats where utilising these ideal conditions.

The group covered all generations and it was great to see the boys sat on the riverside, bat detectors in hand, totally enthralled by the whole experience. There was a real sharing of knowledge and has the evening got darker and after experiencing a real evening to remember we started out journey back.

We headed back to Tomlinsons for soup, roll and hot drinks. It had been a great night and we could not have asked for better conditions. It was warm and for the first time ever everybody was pleased to see midges, as this attracted the bats out to feed.

Hopefully this can be the first of many bat walks as we all get to grips with the different breeds that we are watching.

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