Bats – unsung stars of the night


Guided walk reveals mysterious creatures

Jake Barnes, South Downs National Park’s Assistant Ranger for the Western Downs, led a fascinating guided walk around Buriton’s Chalk Pits Nature Reserve on the evening of 10th August, providing an opportunity for villagers to see and hear bats in their natural environment. 

Jake explained how bats play a key role in local ecosystems and summarised the main species of bats that are likely to be found in the parish.

Bats hunt for insects at night, using a high frequency system called echo-location. Their calls are usually pitched at too high a frequency for humans to hear naturally - but they can be heard using special bat detectors. 

Jake had brought a number of bat detectors with him so that everyone could hear the sounds of bats in the chalk pits and also when they were swooping over the village pond in their search for insects to eat.

The Wildlife Trusts have produced a free Bat Guide to help everyone learn more about bats and how they can be helped to thrive.

The guide (available at the foot of this web-page) includes a month-by-month guide to the lives of bats, including their roosting and hibernation habits, and also explains how people can look after bats through each season.

It explains that bats need a huge number of insects and so a garden that is good for insects is good for bats. It recommends that growing as wide a range of flowers throughout the year as possible to attract a diversity of insects and it provides useful suggestions.

It adds that, as well as growing flowers, there are other ways to attract insects to your garden: making log or leaf piles, mulching garden beds and leaving hollow stems standing over winter for bugs to shelter in.

It is also very important to reduce light pollution: all bat species are nocturnal, resting in dark conditions during the day and emerging at night to feed. 

Artificial light, such as street lights, garden security lighting, or decorative lighting on homes and trees, can have a detrimental effect on bats by affecting the time they roost and come out to hunt. 

People can support bats by reducing or turning off garden lighting and using dim settings or hoods on security lighting to limit light pollution.

The guide also includes features about how to make your own compost, how to make an insect hotel, how to make a wildlife pond and how to make a bat box.