Thursday 7 October 2010

Batting on the Fringe - An Orkney blog

By Anne Youngman

It's the old bat in the Attic here, I’m looking out into a grey sky and reliving fond memories of a recent trip to Orkney where the sun was always shining - even if it was through the rain, the birds singing and the toughest bats braved the chilly nights to reward hardy bat enthusiasts. Oh halcyon days and moonlit nights!

The reason for my trip was to do some training with a group of keen bat people to add to their field skills and keep enthusiasm high. It had been a rather “last minute” invitation and I was rather worried that we’d get no bats and the group would feel demoralised rather than encouraged. I was completely wrong!

Not only does Orkney have the toughest bats in the UK, I believe it has the hardiest bat people! We were out for three evenings (wrapped in hats, scarves, gloves, fleeces and thermals) and got bats two out of the three nights). And these weren’t just “ordinary bats” i.e. 45kHz pipistrelles, we got (cue the deep sultry voice, music and long pause ........) Nathusius’ pipistrelle!!

The bat was recorded by Effy Everis who thought it sounded rather low and slow and had a sneaking, tingling suspicion it was something different. She was right. It was confirmed as Nathusius’ by a panel of bat–boffins and was the cause of several celebrations in bat circles. Effy has recorded other tantalising bat sounds, not like typical 45kHz pipistrelle calls so watch this space for an update on the unexpected delights of batting in Orkney.
It really was a wonderful trip. I have lovely memories of a full moon so bright we cast shadows as we walked through the woods at night, of starlings singing under the wooden jetty of Stromness harbour, rainbows and seals singing sad songs and of an ever changing sky. If you’ve never been to Orkney go there and take your bat detector with you!

Anne Youngman (pining for sunlight, open skies and the long lines of the Orkney landscapes)

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