It was a great opportunity to start to address some of the myths
On behalf of North Tipperary Development Company, Sean Hartigan and Albert Nolan undertook a survey and training session on October 11 last in Templemore.
The training was held in McAuley Centre. There was a very good attendance including members from our own and other Tidy Towns committees.
Many thanks are expressed to Templemore ICA for their co-operation in organising the event. Sean Hartigan had a special interest in the Templemore event as his Dad is a native of the town.
People were asked at the beginning of the session what they knew about bats and how many people actually liked them - the myth that bats are blind and fly into your hair came up. During the workshop it was a great opportunity to start to address some of those myths.
Survey Report Historical Record
A woman at the talk recounted how 30 years ago when they repaired their roof shed she found bats hanging there. Only the Lesser Horseshoe bats hang by its legs...
This species is now restricted to the west coast and a generation ago people had very little knowledge of the lives of bats.
We discussed the different species of bat found in Ireland, their known distribution and how we enhance communities for bats. We also discussed the challenges facing bats, from lack of suitable roosts, strong artificial lighting and predators like cats.
Next we demonstrated how to use the bat detectors and how to identify bats by the way that they fly. These devices convert the inaudible echolocation calls of the bats into sounds that we can hear and with a little practice use to identify the different species of bats.
Templemore has a fabulous town park. There is a large lake and woodland and this is prime bat habitat. The moon was full for the first part of of the walk and the bats were sticking to the darkest part of the woods.
The walls of the old church with natural holes could be the host to roosting or over wintering the bats. If repair work needs to be carried out please check to ensure that no bats become entombed.
In the middle of the woods we recorded soprano pipistrelle calls. The bats were not staying around in the one spot feeding and they have a massive habitat to pick from.
Ivy Covered Castle Bat Roost
One person on the walk takes a walk through the park early each morning. He regularly sees bats heading into the ivy and this is a roost. If works need to be carried out it is important to remember that bats are fully protected under European and Irish law.
For the last part of the survey the moon went behind clouds and bats came to life. Over the lake we recorded Daubentons bats and they were doing their figure of eight feeding flight.
Back near the car park we recorded the social calls of Leisers Bats. This is bat mating time and the males land on the trees and call to females. The beech trees here are at least 200 years old. Beech naturally hollows out and this would be a roosting place for bats.
Bat friendly projects could be included in the Tidy Towns three year plan. Projects that involve bringing more insects into the town will benefit bats by providing food for them. Bat friendly plants could be planted in the long bed in the town.
Flowers that release their scent after at dusk will attract flies and moths and these will be eaten by bats. Honeysuckle could be grown up along a trellis and pots can be filled with night scented stock and tobacco flowers. Other good flowers are French Marigold, Thyme, Raspberry and pale coloured blooms.
It is very important that no additional lights are placed in this area as this will drive the bats away. Also, bat friendly plants could be planted up in the beds around this area and this will attract additional insects for bats to feed on.
We also talked about the importance of roadside hedgerows for wildlife including bats. Well kept hedgerows provide food and shelter for wildlife. Bats will also use hedges in the landscape to navigate between their roosting and feeding habitats.
Bats will feed along stretches of road that have tall mature hedges. As part of your three year biodiversity plan it is important to focus on how the hedgerows can be managed so that both wildlife and people benefit.
Low Level of Artificial Lighting
Like many of the towns we surveyed, Templemore in parts still has a low level of light. The new LED sustainable lights are starting to be phased in. These drive bats away who do not like the strong light. Also they do not attract insects and this removes a potential feeding spot for bats. This is particularly important for nursing females as they may have to travel a great distance to gather enough insects to feed their young.
Enhancing Habitats For Bats
Bats can eat up to 3500 insects each night and a good diversity of trees, shrubs and flowers is required.
Native Broadleaf Trees and Shrubs like willow, blackthorn and hawthorn attract lots of insects. Native hedgerows are used by bats to navigate between roosting and feeding grounds. They also provide shelter and attracts lots of insects. Bats do not liketo travel across large gaps.
Leaving a Wild Edge
We have far too many manicured lawns in our gardens, parks, and schools. Short grass is a virtual desert for insects. Try leaving part of the grass uncut and this will encourage wildflowers that will attract insects and provide food for bats. When weeding try to avoid using lots of pesticides and hericides as they kill a lot of the bat's natural food. Instead use mulches and hoes to keep plants and borders weed free.
Daytime roosting locations can be scarce for bats as old trees with natural holes are very rare in Tipperary. The females will use attics of houses for their maternity roosts and move out in the autumn for winter quarters. Bat boxes need to be placed at least four meters off the ground. When bats emerge they drop down towards the ground and this makes them vulnerable to predators like cats. Keeping cats indoors an hour before darkness and after dusk/dawn also helps protect bats. Avoid placing bat boxes in the midday sun and place three boxes together around a tree or wall. Bats like to have no branches around the box when they are flying in and out.
Water is a brilliant source of insects and anyone who has surveyed a waterbody at night can testify to this. Even a small pond in a garden or community green space will become a habitat for feeding bats.