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Call of nature

This time: John Dempsey goes out at night and comes across some right bats

Published on March 26th 2009.

Call of nature

A Full Moon as big, round and shiny white as a jump-suited Las Vegas Elvis, rose quickly over the back garden this week, bathing the place in its silvery glow.

I was surveying the fruits of a day’s labours in the jungly garden at Dempsey Towers – overflowing wheelie bin, broken hedge trimmer, bramble ripped kecks etc, when a movement in the Moon brightened sky to my left caught my eye.

It was a pipistrelle bat – the first I’ve seen out this year, wheeling and swooping around in the still air after insect prey.

They are surprisingly common suburban critters, and are liable to be found in the evenings around older houses from now through into November and even December.

If the nights get too frosty, they’ll just go back to roost again until it warms up, but they are not the only bat you can find on Merseyside.

Daubenton’s, another small species is regular over water in the evenings – watch out for its “figure of eight” flight pattern, while the larger long eared bats and the biggest of ‘em all, the Noctule, should also be taking to the air over the coming weeks.

To find out more about these superb creatures, there are “bat groups” all over the country, which organise events and talks throughout the year – Around

here it's the Merseyside and West lancs Bat Group.

But the best way to “observe” bats is to use a bat detector (no, really), a superb piece of kit that picks up the bats’ ultrasonic clicks and squeaks as they whizz about above you.

They’re about the size of an old Walkman, and, as such, easy to carry about, and whip out at opportune moments.

You can buy bat detectors reasonably cheaply on the internet, and once you master the device, you can identify each species based on the frequency of calls and noises your bat detector picks up.

Even if you never manage to quite work out the ultrasonic complexities of the bat detector, you’ll have no end of fun pretending to be Mr Spock with his tricorder, while listening to the bats.

Beam me up Scotty…

Look out for...

Any day now the first wheatears should be arriving along the coast – one of the earliest of our summer migrants.

The males are gorgeous birds, with
blue grey backs, black masks, peachy fronts and a striking white backside.

The name “wheatear” is a
derivation of their old country name, “White arse”!

Fresh in from Africa, the north Wirral seafront, or the Sefton coast – Waterloo up to Marshside RSPB reserve - are good places to look for them.

Most of the birds at this time of year

will keep on heading north to breeding sites in the hill country. The swallows won’t be far behind.

As the sun gets warmer, butterflies are emerging now, with Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock the most likely you are to encounter in sheltered spots like city back gardens. The raggedy winged Comma also makes an appearance in March.

Brown Hares on the farmlands behind the city will be getting frisky now – watch out for “boxing” matches, as the animals rear up to spar. This behaviour isn’t two males jousting for the affections of a female, instead, it’s the ladies fending off the chaps they don’t fancy.

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millie scottMarch 12th 2009.

The idea of using barbed wire to trap bats is barbaric. We are a civilised country. These Italian monsters are as bad as child molesters for this trapping of these beautiful little creatures.Brian Stoker has a lot to answer for by saying bats are vampires.

Professor chucklebuttyMarch 12th 2009.

If we had a decent stakehouse in Liverpool we could sort out over a civilised meal which are the bats and which are the undead Princes of Darkness. We went to the bat house in chester zoo last summer which was very good but when we got ready for bed that night Mrs C found 15 of them hanging from her girdle.

van helsingMarch 12th 2009.

The best way to trap these pests is the way the south americans do; use fine mesh barbed wire nets. The bats are disorientated by the pinging off the barbs and tear themselves to shreds when they get entangled.No bats. no rabies. no problems and their children are safer than ours could ever be from the scourge of rabies.

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