Field Notes: Bats on Skye

Skye conservation ranger Cathryn Baillie has been out on the count

Daubenton bat detail

I have been out and about on our land conducting bat surveys, as part of the National Bat Monitoring Program.

It's a good excuse to spend time quietly in magical Glen Sligachan at dusk. In particular I was on the look out for Daubentons bats, also known as the water bat, who skim the water's surface with their big, hairy feet, trawling for aquatic insects. They can also use their tail as a 'scoop' and can fly at speeds of up to 25kph.

I recorded a total of 13 bats along a 1km stretch of the River Sligachan (split into 10 stops 100m apart), a mix of Daubentons and Pipistrelles. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many, as the river has no tree cover and is quite exposed, but it was a very successful night. I will be back in a couple of weeks for a second site count.

While the number of bats in the UK has declined rapidly in recent years, the range covered by Daubentons may actually be increasing. Contributing to ongoing monitoring at a national level allows us to build a picture of population numbers and patterns as affected by land use, climate and biodiversity changes.

Luckily for us on Skye, a large part of their diet is the highland midge - there was no shortage of food on the night the picture below was taken!

Glen Sligachan at twilight - Cathryn Baille

Find out more about our work on Skye

Photo at the top shows an adult Daubentons bat by Dale Sutton/scotlandbigpicture.com