As the sun slowly set on the horizon, a small group of around 20 people gathered at Horsenden Farm to learn about Bats and how to lead Bat Walks. 

Paradise Fields by Ben Finch

Ealing Wildlife Group hosted the event with the chair, Sean McCormack and longstanding “Bat Pack” member Paula Kirby. Together they taught an eager group about the biology and ecology of Bats, as well as the logistics of how to run their own Bat Walks.

Bats have captured the love of countless people as the only true mammal that can fly. Through the hour training course, Sean and Paula regaled the participants with Bat facts such as where they live, what they eat, and their echolocation abilities.

Echolocation is a unique foraging feature where they’re “shouting” and then listening for their high-frequency echo to bounce back. This enables them to map out their environment and where to locate their prey of flying insects. Although they are shouting, the high pitches of the calls are typically not heard by people except the youngest or those with sharp hearing. Luckily, detectors can lower the pitch of the calls into our audible range, which opens another dimension of our natural world to curious souls. 

Bat detectors form a major part of bat walks, where groups point detectors to the sky to listen in on our small mammal friends’ feeding and social lives. As the night creeps over the group, participants can start to see different bat species emerging from their slumber, then taking breaks after they had their fill of flying insects. 

Each species shouts at different frequencies and in different patterns. Tuning the detector to the right frequencies might reveal the “wet slaps” of a Soprano Pipistrelle or the “chip-chop” of a Noctule. 

A detector may clue you in on an approaching Bat before you see its iconic silhouette against the dimming sky. A change in pattern to a “buzz” sound indicates the bat is honing in on its flying insect targets including mosquitoes, which makes Bats a natural for of pest control. 

For this training event, Sean and Paula led the participants to their practical experience in Paradise Fields, a small part of Horsenden Hill in Ealing. Paradise Fields was chosen because it will be the home of Eurasian Beavers in the near future, so the group’s practice doubled as a data-gathering event ahead of the Beavers’ arrival. Beavers engineer their surroundings to increase habitat heterogeneity (having different habitat patches), associated with an explosion in Bat diversity and abundance.

The changes to the Bat community in response to Beavers will be monitored by Ealing Wildlife Group’s ecology and data collection team, with the assistance of the enthusiastic Richard Mead. He is putting up his own static bat detector at Paradise Fields to listen in on which bat species are present throughout the night. Joining us on the bat walk, Richard extended his telescopic ladder to get his recorder closer to the level at which the Bats fly. We cannot wait to see the fascinating insights that Richard’s detector will reveal.  

Paradise Fields Lagoon

Bat walks were the hook for many people to get involved with nature. Sean McCormack started Ealing Wildlife Group in 2016 by asking who wanted to accompany him on a Bat Walk in the Brent River Park. He had tapped into a growing desire for people to connect with nature and has built a thriving community of nature lovers through Ealing Wildlife Group, which continues to grow in numbers and conservation projects, plus now more Bat Pack members.

Paula Kirby leading a bat walk in Walpole Park. Photo by James Morton

Thank you, Paula Kirby, for organising a lovely Bat Walk Training event. With over 20 Bat Walk Leaders now trained, keep an eye out for upcoming Bat walks on our Events pageFacebook group, or Newsletter