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Bat sightings in South Devon Countryside

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Bats are the only mammals that have wings and are able to fly successfully. They are nocturnal so can be seen from late sunset to sunrise. All bats can be seen in the surrounding countryside around Hope Cove. They generally don’t live in Hope Cove, but you may see them flying/hunting around the area.

Bats use echolocation to fly at night. They project sound from their larynx through their nose or mouth. The echo is reflected off objects and is then detected in their ears. The time intervals between emitting the sound (click) and receiving it back tells the bat how far away the object is and the size of the object. This technique is particularly used when hunting airborne prey. When resting during the day, or when roosting in between hunting, they hang upside down – usually from the roof of their roost. Most bats are communal, group animals that roost in vast numbers huddled together to share body warmth. Bats also hibernate during the winter – colonies bats tend to weigh more than bats that don’t live in colonies, showing that colonies are better suited lifestyles for bats. Below are three species of bats found in the South Hams.

Lesser Horseshoe Bat:

Lesser Horseshoe bats are found across Europe and from North Africa to West Asia; but in this country are only found from Cornwall to Gloucestershire and up to Shropshire (including Wales). Their habitat consists of pastures, sheltered valleys, wetlands and the edges of woodlands. Their diet consists of all types of flies. On average Lesser Horseshoe bats live for about 4 years. They are distinctive by their horseshoe flap of skin around its nose. They have light grey long and fluffy fur that is on their body but not on their wings. Their young have much darker fur for camouflage from predators. They have broad wings which allow them to fly slowly and to hover. They also have a long head, but it is still smaller than a human thumb. They are one of the smallest breeds of bats weighing just 4-10g and have a length of 10cm (including their tail). They are considered vulnerable by the IUCN. This is due to destruction of their habitat. In the last 50 years Lesser Horseshoe Bats have become extinct in the North Midlands and North England. Lesser Horseshoe Bats hibernate in caverns below the ground; these caverns have been diminishing due to human expansion. Domestic cats have also affected the amount of prey available for the bats, therefore affecting the bat population.

Pipistrelle Bats:

The Common Pipistrelle bat is found across Europe, North Africa, West and Central Asia. These bats are very used to human civilisation and can live in habitats ranging from forests (their natural habitat) to city parks. They are the smallest and most common bat living in the UK.  These bats weigh just 3-8g and are 3.5-4.5cm long, with a wingspan of 19-25cm wide. They have a yellow/brown underside coat and a dark red/brown coat on their back. They have black wings, ears and nose. These bats do come out earlier than other bats so you may be able to spot them before sunset even. Their diet consists of small insects, moths and gnats. A single bat may eat up to 3,000 insects in one night, but often they feed twice in one night, returning to their roost in between.  Mating season is between August and September – during this time males compete for territory and protect their own territory. Some male territory can have up to 10 females living in the same harem. Gestation is about 5 months so the first young are seen in January. Females in the UK usually only have one baby. Young are able to fly after 3-4 weeks and leave the nest after 7 months. These bats have colonies called nursery colonies that can have up to 1,000 mothers, all with single young.

Daubentons Bats:

The Daubentons bat is also known as the water bat. This bat flies very close to the waters edge catching insects and occasionally small flying fish with its curved wings and large back feet. They are found widespread across Europe to North andEast Asia. They weigh about 5-15g and are about 6-11cm long. They have even medium to dark brown coloured fur on their back but have a lighter belly. They also have a reddish-pink nose and ears. They can live up to 22 years (the longest recording being 22 years). Their diet mainly consists of small flies, moths, midges and mayflies. They reproduce in autumn but don’t fertilise until spring. These bats also have nursery/maternal colonies of up to 80 bats during June and July. Young are able to fly after 3 weeks and leave their mother at 6-8 weeks old. Females are slightly larger than males.