Common Names: Whiskered Bat, Brandt’s Bat, Natterer’s Bat, Daubenton’s Bat, Noctule Bat, Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, Nathusius’ Pipistrelle and Brown Long-eared Bat.
Latin Names: Myotis mystacinus, Myotis brandtii, Myotis nattereri, Myotis daubentonii, Nyctalus noctula, Pipistrellus pipistrellus, Pipistrellus pygmaeus, Pipistrellus nathusii, Plecotus auritus.
Families: Rhinolophidae, Verspertilionidae
There are generally fewer species bats found in the upland areas of the country compared to lowland areas, with only nine of the 18 species recorded in the country known to occur in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. In addition, it is thought that the Leisler’s Bat Nyctalus leisleri is highly likely to occur in the area and it is also suspected that the Lesser Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus hipposideros may be present but as yet, there are no confirmed records of either species in the Dales.
Bats are nocturnal and spend the day at roost sites which, in the Dales, are primarily in buildings or in old trees. A number of river bridges, particularly where there are numerous small gaps and cracks between the stonework, are also important roost sites for a number of species, notably Daubenton’s and Pipistrelles.
The traditional buildings found in most of the villages in the Dales also provide important roost sites for many species, particularly where they are found near areas of woodland and close to rivers and streams. Buildings are favoured roost sites for Natterer’s bats, but they need woodland feeding areas close by where they will often pick off unsuspecting insects that are roosting on leaves. The Soprano and Common Pipistrelle bats are the most likely species to be seen in the Dales, and can be seen in and around many of the villages or and woodlands in the area. Less common but, equally widespread, are Whiskered and Brandt’s bats that are found in similar habitats.
One of the earliest bats to emerge each evening is the Noctule, a species that that given its large size and rapid flight, can often be mistaken for a bird as it flies over woodland hunting insects. The Brown Long-eared Bat is a remarkable species that is very aptly named because if it seen close up, has ears are almost three quarters the length of the body. Although a number of bat species can be found hunting over rivers and streams the Daubenton’s Bat is specially adapted to catch insects over water with particularly large feet that are used to pick insects off the surface of the water.
All bat species in Britain are insectivorous and require an abundance of insect prey as they have voracious appetites, with Pipistrelles reportedly catching over 3,000 insects each night. The diverse range of habitats found within the National Park there are important for a number of species, with the riparian habitats in particular support large numbers. Whilst there may not be the full range of UK species found in the National Park, the area certainly makes up for it in terms of the number of individual bats. In late summer, many species of bats will leave the smaller maternity colonies and summer roosts and move to a much smaller number of swarming sites. At these sites, bats from a wide geographical area will congregate in order to mate, before going deeper into the cave systems later in the year to hibernate. Although dispersal distances vary between species, research has shown that some bats have been known to travel over 30 km from their summer roosts to these wintering sites. This means that many of the cave systems in the National Park are nationally important for swarming and hibernating bats.
The largest bat in the Dales and in the UK, with a wingspan of up to 40 cm. The Noctule is one of the first bats out at night and may sometimes be seen high above tree level, flying fast and straight. It roosts mostly in holes in trees, very seldom in houses.
This bat has a strong association with water, snatching insect prey from the surface of still water as in the picture at the top of the page. Summer colonies are often found in humid places like tunnels or in bridges over rivers or canals. The bat shown in this photo is an individual that has been caught and ringed so that it can be identified again as part of a long term study into the habits and behaviour of the species.
Soprano Pipistrelle Bat
This is our smallest bat, and also one of our commonest. Up to the 1990s, the Soprano Pipistrelle was not recognised as a separate species from the Common Pipistrelle. It was not until researchers with ultrasonic bat detectors discovered that the bat’s echolocation calls are higher in frequency than the other species, that it was realised these were two different Pipistrelle bats which looked very similar one to another. A large specimen weighs only the same as a 50p coin.