If bats flew during the day everyone would know how abundant they are along our canals. These night-time visitors to the waterways are major consumers of flying insects, a fact that should be music to the ears of boaters!
Britain has 18 different kinds of bat. The most common is the tiny pipistrelle, which weighs less than a 2 pence coin.
Daubenton's bats, also known as the 'water bat', are common on the waterways. They use the canal and river network extensively for foraging and getting around safely. For bats, the canals are a cross between a supermarket and the M1.
Homes for bats
In the days when Britain was covered in trees, bats often roosted in hollowed-out tree trunks or caves. However, now that so much deforestation has taken place, bats have been forced to seek alternative roosts.
Many of our 200-year-old tunnels, bridges, buildings and aqueducts are home to bats. This means we have to take care when working with any of our heritage structures or trees, in case bats, which are protected by law, are present.
The waterways provide an incredibly important natural passage for the movement of bats, bringing the countryside into the heart of our towns and cities, as well as some of our intensively farmed landscapes. These corridors bypass the perils of our roads, providing vital links in an increasingly fragmented countryside.
Bats can be spotted around dusk as they venture out to hunt their insect prey. They use a highly sophisticated form of radar (or high-frequency squeak) which bounces off objects back to the bat. This tells it the size, location, velocity and even texture of whatever is in its path.
Bats are less likely to be seen during the winter months, when they hibernate in cool and humid shelters. During this time the bat's body system slows down and its heart rate drops. It's important not to disturb bats during hibernation. The act of waking will use up vital fat reserves, which are needed to sustain the bat until spring.