27th August 2014
This evening I joined members of the Norwich Bat Group for a walk around Whitlingham Great Broad. We met in the car park at eight, and after a brief talk we set off in a clockwise direction. In addition to the standard heterodyne bat detectors Sam (leading the walk) had an Anabat Recorder capable of making recordings, whilst two other members had detectors that plugged into iPads, allowing us to see real-time sonograms of the bats we were detecting. This technology was not only visually interesting, but also allowed the bat species to be identified with more certainty than using the standard detectors.
The first bat of the evening was a Noctule, Britain's largest bat. It is often easy to see Noctules at Whitlingham just after dusk, but this one only showed in brief glimpses as it hunted near the river. Our second bat showed much better, a Soprano Pipistrelle hunting under a Horse Chestnut tree on the riverbank. As we continued round we detected many more Soprano Pipistrelles and Noctules, and also a scattering of Common Pipistrelles.
As we walked back along the south shore we stopped at regular intervals to look and listen for Daubenton's Bats hunting low over the water. We didn't find any, but we did find a scarcer species, Nathusius' Pipistrelle. This species is also associated with water, and up until recently was considered to be rather rare. Having detected one, we then found another when we were almost back to the car park. The light coming from the watersports centre and the city were enough to allow us to get good views of the bat as it flew close to us along the waters edge.
Nathusius' Pipistrelle is a new species for me, and my 7th bat (I have managed to see all seven at Whitlingham too). Norfolk has 12 regular bat species - of the remaining five there are two that I hope to see at some point, Barbastelle and Serotine. Leisler's Bat is mostly restricted to occasional sightings near Thetford Forest (although there is a record on the Norwich Bat Group website for Whitlingham), whilst Whiskered and Brandt's Bats are rare and very difficult to separate.
Thanks to Sam and the Norwich Bat Group for leading the walk and for helping me add another species to my patch list!