Wonders of Bats

My favourite event of the year happens in both March and September at WWT Llanelli, this has to be the Bat Walks! Generally, they are filled up pretty quick and the night consists of crafts beforehand for the children to make themselves souvenirs to remember their experience, this is followed by the walk itself which is usually about an hour long to cover both sides of the centre, which is followed by everyone’s favourite; hot drinks and biscuits!
I love bats, mainly because of the science behind them and how advanced they are and how they’ve adapted to living. It amazed me as a child that there were mammals that could fly! At this age it sounds silly, but as a 7 year old I assume I was thinking of some kind of flying pig or something, that was until I got some books and started to read about mammals and what they are capable of.

The bats we generally get at WWT Llanelli are Noctules, Common Pipistrelles and Soprano Pipistrelles. These species range from 25kHz (Noctule) to 55kHz (Pipistrelles) although it’s easier to keep it on 50kHz so the children don’t fiddle with the dial and can pick up both species making it more enjoyable. My job, is to be an educator of wildlife so bat walks are perfect for me since I can pass my love of bats across to a younger audience and hopefully encourage people to do more for bats and make them enjoyable, doing craft activities really helps to do this! We then divide the group of 52 into two groups, we group families with under 5s into one group meaning I have the flexibility to judge whether their little legs are struggling with an hour walk and go easier places or turn back for toilet breaks. We have three children’s bat detectors and one expert one which Matt had the pleasure of using, I have my own so used that. Once outside, we headed down towards the Bewick swans since there’s a good amount of tall trees which they usually like, this choice resulted in the group seeing some Pipistrelles flying around at dusk so the little one’s could watch them aswell as here their little chipper coming through their detectors.

After spending some time at the pond, we headed down towards to Yard and watched the Pipistelle’s come out of their roost and fly above our heads which the children absolutely loved! This is why I love my job, I used to be a shy person with major anxiety (I cried on my first day..) and now I realise how far I’ve come in just a year, I can now lead walks and talk to the public without getting nervous twitches or having hot flusters, it helps that my job is to educate people, mainly children and a love and passion of mine. The next place to visit on our list, was to the reserve side and down towards Heron’s Wing hide where they have rumoured to roost again meaning we have a great population going! This is where the naturalist side of a person really shines through since it’s not just bats that like the hide, spiders are rather fond of it aswell meaning the bat poo gets stuck in the webs, which makes it easier for me to find some and pull it out to show everything. Fun fact about bat poo: It’s my favourite poo because they usually eat midges and the occasional small insect meaning their poo gets the crushed up shell’s in it, which makes it look sparkly! I have to say, the group I had were an absolute pleasure, I didn’t have to tell any of them to stick by me (their still with their parents but a girl with a beeping machine and a massive torch is always a better attraction for some reason..), they asked questions and the ages I had were between 2-5 for the children and some very sensible answers came out, questions such as do the bats all live together or do they have their own homes? To you or I, as mature people the question seems rather silly, but for a 3 year old to be wondering about communal roosting is amazing!
Image credit to John Lewis, WWT Llanelli Volunteer Photographer.

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