We're asking visitors to the waterways to keep an eye out for amorous bats, as the mammal’s mating season provides the last chance to spot them before they hunker down for winter.
We're making the appeal as part of this year’s Great Nature Watch, the national wildlife survey that closes at the end of the month.
Unlike most mammals, bats mate in the autumn before hibernating throughout winter, with the females delaying fertilisation until they’re ready to rear their young in the spring. While there are 18 species of bat living in the UK, habitat loss has been a major factor in the recent national decline of these fascinating mammals, which rely on finding secure cave-like places to roost in.
Laura Mullholland, ecologist at the Canal & River Trust, said: “Bats are unusual as their mating season is a bit out of sync with all other mammals in the UK, who tend to get frisky in the spring and have their young shortly after. As well as looking for a mate, they’ll also be scouting out the best spots to hibernate in over the winter, which makes this the last chance to really see them before they start to lie low.
“Canals are popular spots for bats - all species of bat we have in the UK feed solely on insects, so the waterways act as their ‘all you can eat’ buffet, as well as a highway connecting them to the wider landscape. Spotting where they’re heading at this time of year is really important, because it’ll also give us an idea of where they’re going to settle down. The more records we have of where they are, the easier it is to make sure they’re not disturbed during the winter.”
Sightings of bats can be reported using the Great Nature Watch app, downloadable from the App Store and Google Play Store. Alternatively visit https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/great-nature-watch.