A Soprano, a Pipistrelle and a Long eared

This summer I did a stint as a bat ecologist. The three bat species we found to be most active were; the Soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) , Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) and the Long eared bat (Plecotus auritus). Since then I have been In love with bats and have decided to make a blog post with information about these lovely species.

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Common pipistrelle

Soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus)

Information from the Bat Conservation Trust

The Soprano pip is the second most common pipistrelle species in the UK. The Soprano prefers to feed in wetland habitats; hunting over water courses. They are also known to hunt by woodland edges and suburban gardens. They feed on aquatic flies and mosquitos. The Soprano pip is very similar to the common pip in diet and reproduction. They even look the same! Scientists only realised they were two different species because of the pitch of their calls. Other then the higher frequency echo’s the Soprano is more picky about habitat range then the Common pip . Female Sopranos create maternity roosts in the summer months, feeding young on their milk for four weeks. Then the young can take to the skies and take down their own meals. Males Soprano’s spend this time defending their mating range. Singing to females when they are receptive to a bit of male attention should we say?

Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)

Information from the Bat Conservation Trust.

As the name would suggest, common pips are the most common pipistrelle species in the UK. They feed on aquatic insects and mosquitos (thank goodness for pips, eh?) They live in a range of habitats; from country side to urban areas. From woodlands, to hedge grows, to grassland. Habitats where they go “Aerial hawking” for prey – Common pips eat whilst still in flight. They leave the roost 20 minutes after sunset, so that from dusk till dawn they can make their kill. In the summer months females form maternity roosts, for protection. The young will only feed on the mothers milk for the first four weeks. After that the young can finally fly and forage for themselves (I say finally but that is not long at all, to learn to fly and find food!) In the mean time the males roost alone or in small groups. Defending their mating territories. The males sing to the females around the roost. Hoping to attract the ladies and make babies on the strength of their song. Like all bats, common pips use echolocation to communicate and hunt. Actually the sound of the echolocation leaving the bats ears is so loud they have developed an ingenious solution. They can bend their eardrums to protect them from the sound and then, move them back into place to receive the echo reply.

Brown long eared bat (Plecotus auritus): The whispering bat

Information from the Bat Conservation Trust

I think that I have fully decided that my favourite bat is the long eared. They are so cute, with their lovely long ears! Focus Kerry. Here are some delightful facts about Long ears. There are two species of Long eared bat in the UK, the Brown and the Grey (Oh like wizards from Lord of the rings). We also have a visitor from over seas with mouse ears – The Greater mouse eared bat. Today, I’m going to focus on the Brown Long eared bat.

 

brown-long-eared-bat-roosting

Brown long eared bat – adorable!

Brown Long ears are known as whispering bats because the pitch of their echolocation is so quiet. This sensitive hearing has evolved so that the long eared can tell the difference between prey and a leaf – gleaning. The Long eared doesn’t just catch prey in mid flight they also use gleaning to detect and pick insects hiding on leaves. They can also hover mid flight, like a bird of prey hovering over a farmers field for mice. They can dive deep and glide shallow. Capture insects on lighted windows and sometimes land to move their prey into a more edible position. Larger insects are eaten on perches in their roosts. Long ears don’t just use echolocation to hunt prey they can use their vision to. So, actually there is no foundation in the saying blind as a bat. Long eared bats eat moths, spiders, earwigs and flies.

They like to roosts in barns, in colonies of around 20 in summer (Which is small for bat colonies). Unlike with many other bat species, male long ears stay in the maternity roosts with the females.  Maternity roosts being formed in late spring for this species. In winter they like to hibernate in caves. Brown ears can live up to 30 years but are in decline in the UK. This is due to a change in land use for farming practices and the use of pesticides, especially pesticides used in roofs, where they may be roosting. I really hope this special species can recover.

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