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Posted by Kim Winter, Monday 20th May, 2019

May bat walk

Image: Nick Weedon

Lambeth’s Environmental Compliance Officer, Dr Iain Boulton, spoke to an enthusiastic group of 18 adults and four very excited children who gathered in Windmill Gardens at 9pm on 16 May to search for Britain’s most common bat, the pipistrelle.

Iain explained to us that bats are warm-blooded mammals that do not feed off human blood but do need to eat 5,000 insects a night to stay alive. They mainly search for their food as the sun goes down and use their acute sense of hearing to find the insects they eat. Bats are not put off their search for food by human activity or by the noise we make because they operate on a different wave length. 

So, to help us find the bats, Iain provided the group with sonar bat detectors that had to be tuned in to the right frequency to pick up the sound of bats darting around to catch their food. Then we set off around the park to seek out the elusive pipistrelles. The conditions seemed ideal: it had been a warm day, there was not much wind and there was a bright moon hanging low in the sky.

We searched under the lime trees that are the ideal place for bats to find insects, but our search was in vain. Two of the group claimed to have made contact with a bat at the other end of the park but the rest of us were unsuccessful. 

Despite the no-show by the small flying mammals everyone had an enjoyable hour in Windmill Gardens and agreed to come back on 19 September at the earlier time of 7pm, when Iain assured us the bats would be more active as they would be in the mood for mating before their long period of winter hibernation.