Big thank you from

Bat myths put to rest

by Paul Cormacain

WE have seven types of bat here. There seems to be more chances of organised bat outings nowadays than ever before, so it would seem there is more interest than ever before. These bats can be seen taking the air at dawn and dusk, and can be also seen taking the insects.

Old thinking used to hold that bats got entangled in ladies hair, but most folk do not hold with that now.

In the old days, bats were into drinking blood. Now most would say rubbish to that. Misconceptions did abound, but more folk now know more about bats, have a greater respect for bats, some even love bats.

When we think of bats, Count Dracula sometimes appears in the thought processes, and this would be one of the many factors which has influenced us over the years.

Anyway, bats eat insects, and only insects. Some bats I have seen in my travels have different eating habits, but as far as we are concerned here, bats only eat insects. Insects are devoured at a phenomenal rate, and research shows that some bats will eat as many as three and a half thou-sand insects in a single night. That leaves us humans with a heck of a lot less insects to contend with.

Bats are blind. Does anyone believe that rubbish any more? Bats have a superb system of navigation.

As radar equipment transmits a stream of electo-magnetic waves at a very high frequency, so do bats transmit sound waves a very high frequency.

High frequency electro magnetic emission will be returned if it were hit a solid object like a ship. It will also be reflected from land.

By measuring the time taken for a wave to go and return, the radar equipment can measure how far away a ship is, or how far away land is.

With the bats sound waves, if it were to hit an insect, for example, the sound would be returned, the bat would hear it, and be able to judge the direction and distance it is from the insect. Bats are very good hunters.

When bats are flying around at dusk, they send out a steady stream of sound waves. Many bat enthusiasts have equipment that enables them to listen in to the bat sounds. The bats have been able to use this sound system for thousands of years. Electo magnetic radar has only been invented in the last century. Should we be impressed?

Bats are powerful fliers. Their sound system tells them where dinner is, but if they are flying towards a tree of a building, the system also tells them of these obstructions. So they can take evasive action.

Have you watched bats flying? They can go at great speed, and can turn so easily. Many experts would rate their flying ability as higher than that of birds. And people used to believe that bats could get entangled in long hair.

There is a growing interest in bats. More and more folk are going out at night to see them, and now to listen to them. Different bats can now be identified by their sound. Bat organisations have sprung up, and if you have a query you can always speak to the bat folk at the museum.

Since humans first came to the island of Ireland they have been cutting down trees to enable them to farm.

Of course, we were cutting down bats' homes. So when we started to live in nice warm clean houses, the bats thought they were entitled to move in with us. So they did. Many of us did not like this situation, so we boarded up our homes to keep the bats out. So our lodgers in the roof are fewer.

People have asked me in the past about bats in their roof space, and wanted to know how to get rid of them. I tend to ask them why get rid of the little lodgers, why not let them stay.

Bats spend time preening, not doing any one any harm. Bats do not attack woodwork. They do not spread diseases. Even their dropping are harmless, and in fact the droppings have insulating properties. So why not let the poor creatures bide?

Bats are now protected by law, by the Wildlife Order (1985). So if we are going to do anything which is considered anti-bat, we first must contact the authorities.

Even if we are going to treat the timber in our roof spaces, we must contact the Conservation Branch of the Department of the Environment.

If we think any work would disturb bats, again we must contact the authorities. Fines can be severe if we do not. But now that we know a little more about bats, surely we should be kinder to them?

Coming Events

Saturday 3rd September - Canoe to Moneypenny's Lockhouse, at 1100, more from Oxford Island on 028 3832 2205

Saturday 10th September - Woodcraft Day in Colin Glen Forest Park, at 1100, phone 028 9061 4115. Come and visit the hedgehogs at Castle Espie, at 1300, contact 028 9187 4146

Sunday 11th September - Newry Canal Cycle Ride, at 1000, more information from Oxford Island, 028 3832 2205

Saturday 10th, Sunday 11th September - See the Irish Brent geese at Castle Espie, for details phone Espie on 028 9187 4146

Saturday 17th, Sunday 18th September - Basket Making Event at Oxford Island, starting at 1000, phone the Island on 028 3832 2205. Green Living Fair at Castle Espie, give them a call on 028 9187 4146

Saturday 15th October - Homes for Wildlife, at 1100, Colin Glen Forest Park, details from the Park on 028 90614115

Ulster Star