The Bats of Dumfries and Galloway
Bats are probably the most mysterious and fascinating mammals in Britain. Being small, active at night, living in crevices and other secret places and spending most of their lives hibernating or asleep, bats are very difficult to study or fully appreciate.
However, their reputation for being scary is undeserved, and as people learn more about them and understand them better they find just how fascinating and well evolved these creatures are.
Through entering a state of hibernation bats can conserve energy and survive the cold temperatures and low availability of food of winter months. A fat store built up over the previous summer will act as sustenance during leaner months.
As the night time temperatures begin to warm and food sources increase gradually in availability, bats are more frequently seen taking to the sky. In extended cold snaps they can return to a state of torpor.
Whilst male bats roost in singles or small groups, female bats congregate to form large maternity roosts where they can give birth. New mothers make use of the increased availability of food sources to provide milk for a single pup.
Mothers suckle baby bats until about 6 weeks of age when the youngsters typically learn how to catch insects and become self-sufficient.
Bat species in the UK utilise delayed fertilisation so the mating season general takes place over Autumn months. Preparation for winter also takes place through the identification of suitable hibernation sites and building up fat stores.
All British bats are insectivorous, and it is the lack of flying insects in the winter that forces them to hibernate from about November to March. Bats return to their traditional roosts year after year, but may use different roosts at various times of the year.
To date 9 species of bat (out of 17 species found UK wide) have been recorded in Scotland and we are extremely fortunate to be able to say all have been documented in Dumfries and Galloway. Scottish bat species include:
- Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus)
- Bandit Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)
- Brown Long-eared (Plecotus auritus)
- Whiskered (Myotis mystacinus)
- Brandt’s (Myotis brandtii)
- Daubenton’s (Myotis daubentonii)
- Natterer’s (Myotis natteri)
- Noctule (Nyclatus noctula)
- Leisler’s (Nyctalus leisleri)