Friday 22 July 2016

Roamin' in the Gloamin'

Leisler's (lesser noctule) bat. All three of these bat pics
are blagged off the Internet - just Google the species and
click on 'images'.

The young Hubbard poults are now penned in an area out towards our Western boundary and they have a fox proof coop of their own out in their run. This move has resulted in me having to "teach" them to go to bed inside the coop (not under it, you numpties!) and, being youthful, adolescent stop-outs, this is only possible as deepest dusk descends. It is pointless trying to round up 12 chickens and steer them through a dark pop-hole to "safety" before they are good and ready.

Our ever-useful bat detector box. 
So every evening, at that time when it looks much darker outdoors through the windows of a lit room, than it really is if you went out there, I find myself playing "chicken" with Mr Fox. The Hubbards are away from the house and a bit exposed were our brush-tailed chum to come exploring so, as it starts to look dark outside, I soon crack and have to go check on them to see if they might oblige me by going to bed. This has, in turn, led to me spending a lot more time outdoors in the gloaming than has recently been the case and I have rediscovered my fascination for bats.

The local bogs are a blanket of colour -
here is purple loosestrife and meadowsweet
in Currasallagh bog.
In Kent we were very keen on bats and could sit outside on our terrace any summer evening as the sun went down with the bat detector box standing on the table between the glasses of wine. We'd be chatting away till we were inevitably interupted by the patter, squelch, tick and 'raspberry' noises of bats passing over the garden(s) hunting their midges and mozzies.

We had lost the habit here for several reasons. First, dusk is an hour and a half later here in the West of Ireland than it is on the Greenwich Meridian, so we were already starting to think about bed by the time the bats came out. Second, those midges and mozzies - sitting outside in the half light here is not necessarily pleasant or restful. There also seemed to be far fewer bats, so we had several fruitless sits in conditions which would always have 'caught' you a bat or 6 in Kent. Also, in my head the bats we saw all seemed to be Pipistrelles.

These two move in just down the lane
Pips are perfectly good bats and users of bat-boxes like ours know there are "now" 2 species emitting their chirrups and squelches at 2 different frequencies. Normal Pips emit at around 45 kHz, and the 'new' Soprano Pips do their thing at 55 kHz. Obviously both those frequencies are well outside human hearing-range, but the bat box is there to 'Doppler' it all down pro-rata into human-audible noise. Google 'bat detector box' for details - they are around €120

There I was, then, wandering around in the half light whispering sweet lullabyes to a load of unco-operative white chickens when I found mysef being buzzed by a much bigger bat, obviously too big to be a pipistrelle. My brain was raking around the usual suspects like "Greater Horseshoe Bat" (just because it has the word 'greater' in its name) and Dubenton's bat because it happened to be cruising up and down above our big pond. But I had no idea whether we had GHBs in Ireland (we don't) and I was not sure whether you could pin Daubenton's down to species by bat-box frequency (you can't - he is one of the annoying 'mid-range' bats who shout at the same frequency as lots of other bats).

We may get this good at cheese making some day. This
pretend 'Parmesan' is from Sue and Rob
Off to the internet then to consult my 'tame' experts, Kent Wildlife Trust and then blog-regular, our own Mrs Silverwood who has been on ID training courses as part of the Irish bat-survey. I had forgotten that. She suggested Leisler's bat (aka the 'Lesser Noctule') Nyctalus leisleri. This is the biggest Irish bat (I now know) but one with which I have never crossed paths. Now I have and I am sure from my recent research that my bat was a Leisler's. This guy is reasonably easy to 'detect' as he emits at 20-30 kHz with nothing below 20. Naturally, I have been out each night since and not seen 'him' again but, heh, why would you expect co-operative bats when you are trying to guide unco-operative chickens to bed?

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