Bats in Leicestershire & Rutland

Daubenton;s Bat, myotis daubentoni, adult, flying over water - Dale Sutton/2020vision

Trainee Reserves Officer Helena shares with us her in-depth knowledge of all the local bats that have been recorded at Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust reserves

Bats occupy a variety of different habitats and can be found on all continents, except Antarctica. They are one of the most successful mammals, with more than 1200 species. In the UK, we have 18 species and 12 are present in Leicestershire and Rutland. 

All British bats are nocturnal and they feed mainly on insects which they catch using echolocation! Echolocation involves the emission of a series of ultrasonic squeaks (about 12 - 15 per second!) These sounds bounce back as echoes allowing the bat to determine where its prey or other objects are. Each species emits a distinctive call that can be Identified using a bat detector.

In this blog, we discover some of the bats that have been recorded on our nature reserves using echolocation frequencies.

Let's start by introducing you to one of the most common and widespread species, the Common Pipistrelle

Pipistrelles weigh between 4-7g and have an 18 -25cm wingspan; amazingly they can consume more than 3000 insects in a night! One of the reasons for their success is that they occupy a range of habitats, from city centres, deciduous woodland rides and edges, to farmlands, gardens, rivers and other bodies of water, as well as hedgerows and coniferous woodlands. Pipistrelle's echolocation frequencies are around 45 kHz, similar to several other species. Reserves where this species has been recorded, are Charley Woods, Charnwood Lodge, Cloud Wood, Cossington Meadows, Cribb’s Meadow, Dimminsdale, Holwell, Kelham Bridge, Launde Big and Park Wood, Lea Meadows, Lucas Marsh, Prior’s Coppice, Rocky Plantation and Rutland Water.

Spooky Fact* - It might come as a surprise to some people that all UK bats live on a diet of insects, rather than blood! – The only bloodsuckers are the Vampire bats found in America.

Soprano Pipistrelles are also widespread in the UK, although are more common in the North. Compared to the Common Pipistrelle, they favour a smaller range of habitat types. Specifically, areas where there is wetland vegetation, including ponds, lakes, canals and rivers. They are very agile and call at a frequency of 55 kHz. Our records show this species to be one of the most frequently recorded in Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust reserves. Charnwood Lodge, Cloud Wood, Cossington Meadows, Rutland Water and Ulverscroft have all played host to this species. 

Nathusius's Pipistrelle, although widespread, is not found as frequently. That being said, it has still been recorded on a couple of our sites, namely the scrape around Kelham Bridge and predominantly Rutland Water. These recordings coincide with their natural ecology, as most of the UK records have been close to water, including rivers, lakes and canals.

Another species found near water is the Daubenton’s bat. This species hunts close to the water, normally 5- 25cm from the surface. Evidence that an insect has been caught, can be seen by the ripples left on the surface, they will avoid choppy water, preferring it calm. In comparison, Natterer’s will hunt slightly higher than Daubenton’s and tolerate rougher water. However, both species are not found exclusively near water, with Daubenton’s recorded along woodland paths, for example at Prior’s Coppice and Natterer’s at Charnwood Lodge. 

Another two species of bat found in Leicestershire and Rutland are the Brandt’s and Whiskered bats. These bats have an echolocation frequency of around 45 kHz and share a common habitat, preferring parkland, woodland, gardens and fast-moving water bodies. Brandt’s are more likely to be found near water and woodland and similar to Whiskered bats will avoid open areas. They have both been recorded at Rutland Water.

Now on to the biggest species in the UK… Noctule bats, they can weigh up to 40g and have a wingspan of 33-45cm! Their echolocation frequency is lower than all the other species at 20- 25 kHz, thus they are fairly easy to identify when using a bat detector. Noctules have one of the loudest calls of all UK bat species and can be recognised by a ‘chip-chop-chip-chop’ sound. They are also one of the most vocal; males generally make the calls whilst they are not in flight. Charnwood Lodge, Cloud Wood and Rocky Plantation are just a few of our reserves where Noctule bats have been recorded. 

Bat

Image of Brandt's and Whiskered bats 

Brown long-eared bats, unlike the noisy Noctule are very quiet. They are often seen before they are heard and their appearance is distinctive, because of their larger ears. They often stay quite close to their roosting site and have been seen at Charnwood Lodge, Cloud Wood, Holwell, Kelham Bridge and Launde Park Wood. 

Last but not least is the Barbastelle; this species is rare and mostly only found in central and southern England and Wales. They utilise a range of different habitats, from woodlands (under and above the canopy), river valleys, rivers, scrubby areas, occasionally along the edge of coastal cliffs and street lights. Little social calls have been recorded, although they have been heard at Prior’s Coppice and Holwell reserve.

All bats, including their breeding and resting sites, are protected in all countries in Europe.