Native Bats- Our Marvellous Mammals

Bats are some of the most unique and iconic species that call the UK home. These adorable nocturnal animals often have a spooky reputation. Could this have originated from tales of vampires? Or it could be because they’re nocturnal? Or perhaps even because of their looks? Either way, we love our native bats!

Hibernation explained

Pupils build bat boxes for native bat species.

Depending on the weather most bats start to hibernate in late October to early November. Hibernation can last around 5 months, so you might not see another bat until May!

As they hibernate their heart rate drops to around beats a minute, which is a huge contrast to their flying heart rate which can be as high as 1,000 beats per minute as a bats amazing speed and agility needs a lot of power. Bats also lower their body temperature and metabolic rate. Doing this means that they can live off the fat they have stored up, rather than having to rely on dwindling numbers of insects.

Delivering projects like Bats in Schools means we often make bat boxes like this one. This helps to create habitat for our native bats and introduces school pupils to these spectacular species.

Where do bats go to hibernate?

In late autumn bats will start to look for their winter residences. Often, we think of bats living in caves, but they also roost in trees, old mines, abandoned or disused cellars, old barns, and tunnels. As they can’t build nests, they’ll simply look for a quiet, sheltered spot, where they can avoid dramatic temperature changes and the worst of the winter weather. In fact, bats can squeeze themselves into tiny gaps, and they’ll hibernate in any position.

Which bat species can I see?

It’s not too late to spot bats this year, but you’ll need to act quickly before they go into hibernation. The best time to spot them is at dusk, when they’re feeding. If you are lucky they might get very close to you if you stand still enough.

The good news is that bats love feeding near rivers. Tree-lined rivers provide ideal foraging habitat for bats, as lots of insects gather above the water, in the shelter provided by the trees. So bats use rivers as feeding spots, and as maps to move around their areas.

five Native bats you might find near water

A common pipistrelle- one of the UK's native bats
Common pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus

A small bat with brown fur, a black face, and black wings. You are likely to spot these in your garden, as well as near water.

Where to see them: water, woodland, farmland, grassland, urban areas

Diet: invertebrates

Roosts: buildings and tree holes

Brown long-eared Plecotus auratus

These are medium sized bats, but their ears make them very distinctive. In fact, their ears are almost as long as their bodies! These bats are a lighter brown with a pale underside. They can swoop very low to the ground and even land to eat larger prey.

Where to see them: parks, gardens, and woodlands

Diet: moths, beetles, spiders, earwigs, and flying insects

Roosts: trees and old buildings

A brown long eared bat- one of the UK's native bats
A Daubenton's bat- these species are often found close to water
Daubenton’s Myotis daubentoniid

Daubenton’s bats are often spotted near rivers, swooping in search of insects like midges, mayflies, and caddisflies. This bat has a distinctive pink face and a brown body, black wings, and a pale belly.

Where to see them: woodland and grassland close to fresh water

Diet: invertebrates

Roosts: close to water, swooping under bridges, old mines or works, caves, or tree holes

Natterer’s Myotis nattereri

Natterer’s bats are medium-sized, with long ears, a pink face, and light grey brown fur. This bat hunts on the wing over water, but also forages for beetles and spiders which they catch directly from plants. Their slow flight makes them distinctive.

Where to see them: water, woodland broadleaved woodland, hedgerows and tree lines

Diet: midges, moths, and other flying insects

Roosts: old buildings, caves, and old mines

A natterer's bat- one of the UK's native bats
A noctule bat- one of the UKs largest bats
Noctule Nyctalus noctule

These high-flying bats are sometimes mistaken for birds as they are so large and they fly much higher than other bats. A bat watchers’ favourite, they can sometimes be heard chirping by those with good ears. This large bat is golden brown with a darker face and wings.

Where to see them: woodlands

Diet: beetles, midges, and moths

Roosts: rotten holes in trees

Become a Bat Watcher

Ribble Rivers Trust are lucky enough to have some amazing Citizen Scientists who help us to monitor bat populations across the Ribble Catchment. If this is something you’d like to get involved with then check out our Citizen Science webpage for more information.

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