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How to spot bats

If you're in the vicinity of one of our canals or rivers at dusk, look out for bats. Whether you're out in the country or in the centre of a city, you'll have a good chance of spotting one on a calm evening.

A bat at night time

Our environment team work hard to make sure that our 250-year-old network of tunnels, bridges and aqueducts welcome a variety of wildlife and provide suitable roosting areas for bats. Canals are also a great source of food and drink for bats. So you have a good chance of seeing these fascinating creatures if you're on our waterways at the right time.

Bats are easier to spot during the summer months as they're out hunting for insects. Around Halloween you can still seek out these much maligned and under-appreciated creatures before they hibernate for the winter. They're fascinating to watch as they dart about catching their prey and showing off their agility.

Top bat-spotting tips

Choose a dark area. Many bats avoid bright street lighting and prefer to fly in the dark, so try to find a location with as little light pollution as possible. Don't forget to take your torch for the walk home though.

Arrive just before the sun sets. Bats are easiest to spot around dusk when they come out to feed.

Watch the water. Bats need to hydrate themselves just as much as we do, so you'll often see them swooping down to take a drink from the water. You'll also spot Daubenton's bats (sometimes known as water bats) hunting just over the water. They catch insects with their feet and will often feast while they are still flying.

Go out on a dry, still night. Bats don't like hunting insects when it's wet, as the moisture in the air confuses their echolocation system. Flying when it's wet or windy means that they will use up a lot of energy hunting but not get much in return.

Choose a good spot. Stand on a bridge so that you get a good view of the water in both directions, or find a straight part of the waterway so that you can see as far as possible. Bats often feed in sheltered areas, where swarms of flying insects gather, such as winding holes bordered by mature trees. Places where the canal is wider are good too.

Two women eat lunch next to the canal

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Last Edited: 19 July 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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