Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Flat bats’ Easter adventure along the Forth and Clyde and Union canals

Flat bats’ Easter adventure along the Forth and Clyde and Union canals

British Waterways recently launched this year’s Wildlife survey with bats as their target species. Anne Youngman (Scottish Officer for the Bat Conservation Trust) roped in some pals for a batty waterways adventure. Read on to find out what they got up to and just why waterways are so good for bats.

Our story begins on Easter Sunday. Its features the “Fab. Four”
Dylan (the dog)

And last but by no means least the intrepid explorer.......

It also features two Scottish canals;
The Forth and Clyde canal (which goes from the west coast at Bowling to the east coast at Grangemouth )
The Union Canal (which goes from Falkirk into the heart of Edinburgh and is linked to the Forth and Clyde by the Falkirk wheel).

This batty blog shows just why canals can be such brilliant places for bats (and other wildlife), for people and not forgetting dogs, especially rascally ones who like long walks, meeting other dogs and swimming.

The adventure started on Easter Sunday; the sun was shining, the birds were singing so Anne and John loaded up their bikes, harnessed up the dog and grabbed flat bat.

They all took the train from Dunblane to Polmont and then cycled (well, Dylan trotted) the short distance from the station to the Union canal.

Things already look great for bats ...

Note the smooth water - perfect for Daubenton’s bats to feed over,
The bridge – which might provide nooks and crannies for bats to roost in
The trees and bushes which not only attract insects but provide sheltered areas to feed in and land marks for navigation
No street lights - so it’s nice and dark for the shyer bats at night
No cars or lorries – so it’s safe for bats to fly across the canal and along its length with very little risk of traffic collision.

The intrepid gang cycled/trotted eastwards along the towpath all the way to Edinburgh. (A distance of around 27 miles). There was plenty to see along the way and lots of good “batty" features.

The wildflower cafe.

The canals make slower, gentler transport links for people who want to travel by boat, bike or by foot, away from noise and bustle with time to enjoy the sights and sounds around them.
The canals also provide commuting routes and habitat for wildlife, from tiny insects through to birds as big as swans and herons and of course they are great for bats too.

The Avon Viaduct has spectacular views. If you are scared of heights it may be a “knee wobbly” challenge. If you are a thrill seeker is knee/nay bother!

The trip was such good fun that on Easter Monday Anne and Flat bat decided to explore the Forth and Clyde canal. They took the train to Glasgow joining the canal at Maryhill locks, then cycled eastwards to Polmont (A distance of around 30miles).

There was plenty of wildlife and wildlife signs along the way. Otter spraints were noted under many of the bridges, particularly the new ones (perhaps the spraints are just easier to see on the smoother stones).
Cycling into swarms of flies was a pain in the eye – but at least it means the bats and fish have plenty of food.
Orange tip and peacock butterflies fluttered by but would not stay still long enough to be photographed. Anne had more luck with swans, who either continued feeding or sitting on their nests

After about 25 miles the fantastic Falkirk wheel came into view. The Wheel is a boat lift which links the Forth and Clyde canal with the Union canal.

Sadly not long after Falkirk it was time to leave the canal and get a train back from Polmont station and home to Dunblane.

The end of a perfectly batty adventure along beautifully batty waterways, or is it? What will the intrepid Flat bat get up to next?????? Watch this space.

Written by - Anne Youngman
Scottish Bat Officer

Further info /useful links
To make your own flat bat to take on an adventure
Insert BCT link http://www.bats.org.uk/publications_download.php/619/Flat_Bat.pdf

For more information on British waterways Wildlife survey