Wetlands are prime habitats for hungry bats, and you can see various species of bat at all of our wetland centres.

Daubenton's bat in wetlands
A Daubenton's bat skims across a pool hunting for aquatic insects

How to see bats in the wild

Bats move fast and undercover of darkness so it can be hard to tell one species from another. Although you can see bats at dusk and on moonlit nights you can also use special detectors to make their echolocation calls audible to humans. Different species of bat call at different frequencies and with different call patterns and therefore most can be identified using this technique.

Bats can also be picked out in torch light. One species of bat that is easy to identify in this way is Daubenton’s bat, this wetland specialist has a distinct white bottom which can be easily picked up in torchlight as they hunt and drink across a pond or river. But be careful of flashing bright lights at them for long periods of time.

Another species you're likely to see is the common pipistrelle is widely distributed across the UK. Its distribution appears to extend further north than the soprano pipistrelle. Along with the soprano pipistrelle it is one of Britain’s commonest bat species.

When identifying bat roosts, researchers use bat droppings to distinguish between species, if bats are absent. Droppings can also be the first sign to indicate that bats are using an area. Other more uncommon signs include discarded moth wings which can accumulate around a favoured feeding spot.

Bats in the UK - a typical life cycle

Summer

In the early summer, pregnant female bats gather together in warm, safe places to have their babies. Some groups of bats return to the same site every year. Research has shown that female sexually mature bats tend to pick mates based on what they sound like - it would seem that the more high pitched the male’s call, the better.

A bat’s pregnancy lasts between six and nine weeks. The length of the pregnancy depends on the species and can be influenced by weather, climate and availability of food.

Bats usually give birth to a single pup each year. They keep their babies close and nurture them carefully, suckling them for four to five weeks until they are old enough to fly.

Winter

During the winter bats hibernate. They tend to favour spending the winter alone or in small numbers. They choose crevices of buildings and trees and also bat boxes as their winter home. They can be found in surprisingly exposed locations where it is important not to disturb them. On warmer days in spring, they begin to emerge again - very hungry!

See bats at WWT Centres

Using bat detectors on a bat walk
Using bat detectors on a bat walk

Bat species recorded at WWT Centres

Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus species) Daubenton's (Myotis Daubentonii) Serotine (Eptesicus Serotinus) Noctule (Nyctalus Noctula) Brown long-eared (Plectotus Auritus) Whiskered/ Brandt's (Myotis

brandtii or mystacinus)

Arundel
Caerlaverock
Castle Espie
Llanelli
London
Martin Mere
Slimbridge
Washington
Welney

Bat activities

Many WWT centres run bat walks in the warmer months, accompanied by an expert guide who can help you interpret the calls you pick up on the bat detector provided for you. It’s a fascinating evening out, and thoroughly exciting when you realise that you can actually identify those dark, tiny shapes as they buzz around the darkening skies – and all through the medium of sound.

At WWT London, there’s even a Bat House, instigated by the Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, which is believed to be used by Daubenton’s bats. Find your nearest centre to see if they’re running bat walks near you.