Monday 27 April 2009

Talking the bat walk

A common pipistrelle on the wing -- as seen in Regent's Park
(image: Hugh Clark)

BCT's Biodiversity Officer Lisa Hundt helped lead last week's bat walk in Regent's Park -- and did a brilliant job, we might add. Here she reveals her heretofore unknown weakness for red liquorice laces and explains why happy, healthy bats are good for the environment and us, too!

How many bats did you see?
I would say that for the first 15 minutes I could count exactly how many; it was three and I spent that entire time biting my nails wondering if they were going to desert us in our hour of need! Once we got down to the lake there were so many bats looping around foraging that it was difficult to tell, as the same bat will pass by a number of times. I would make a guess at about 40 to 60.

Drawing on your extensive and expert knowledge, what species were they likely to be?
I am slightly intimidated by the words ‘extensive’ and ‘expert’, it might be digging me a hole! The two main species of bats we saw were soprano pipistrelle and common pipistrelle bats. They were the bats that were foraging by the lake, often flying in quite close in what looks like an erratic manner, but they know what they are doing. The other species noted was a noctule bat, which has a slower call. This one was heard by the lake and along the path on the way back.

Judging by their enthusiastic loops and twirls, the bats in Regent’s Park seem pretty healthy and happy. Would you agree? And what does that mean for us humans?
Yes, the bats did seem on form that night. They were making the most of the good weather and stocking up on food in preparation for the inevitable periods within the British summer when the weather turns and there aren’t as many insects for them to feed on.

Bats are great indicators of a healthy environment, which means that if they are happy and healthy, then the environment that we live in is happy and healthy too. This is why it is so important to preserve areas they use. That way we preserve the environment for us to enjoy and for all the other species that live there as well.

Walk highlight?
Getting to the lake to see the pipistrelles foraging.

Walk lowpoint?
Not being able to take a cheese plate with us!

If people are interested in going on a bat walk, what should they do?
If you are interested in learning more about bats and going on a bat walk the best place to start is by contacting your local bat group who will often organise events over the summer. Look on the BCT website to find your nearest group.

Would you like to make a bat walk shout-out?
Bat walk shout out goes to Jenny Clark and her bats. Brilliant!

You’ve only been with us for a few weeks – how’re you finding it so far? Maybe you could tell us a little about what you do at BCT?
My role at BCT involves a bit of everything; lobbying, commenting on consultations for draft policy, working with Natural England and other organisations on initiatives such as the Biodiversity Action Plans (BAP), drafting guidance documents, as well as supporting BCT projects. I am finding working for BCT interesting, fun and rewarding -- as you can tell I am still at the point where I am full of enthusiasm, which I hope will continue.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Something you might not know about me: I am a PADI dive master and have a weakness for red liquorice laces.

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