Nature's own nocturnal acrobats gracing the skies in Devon

A handler from Devon Bat Group with a bat sitting on a purple glove

Devon is home to 16 of the 17 British breeding bat species - Credit: Sarah Butcher

Devon Bat Group (devonbatgroup.org) was formed in 1984 by a group of people concerned about the decline of British bats and especially keen to look after the interests of those in Devon. 37 years later, we have just under 200 members from a wide range of backgrounds and interests, ranging from professional ecologists to roost owners and members of the public intrigued by these amazing creatures of the night.

In the natural world bats are unique, as they are the only mammals to truly fly and their aerobatic skills have to be seen to be believed. Bats have been around for approximately 50 million years and are actually more closely related to humans than they are to mice. They usually only have one baby a year and can live for up to 30 years.

Around the world over 500 plants rely on bat species to pollinate their flowers, including types of mango, banana, and agave (used to make tequila). However, all UK bats eat insects, in fact a tiny pipistrelle bat can eat up to 3,000 insects a night, making them allies and friends to gardeners and farmers. The bats catch the insects by using an acoustic system called echolocation, similar to radar. "Blind as a bat" is a common saying but is incorrect, as they can see, but it’s true to say that their other senses are more important. They emit a series of ultrasonic cries through the mouth or nose and detect flying insects by the echoes reflected back. These high-pitched sounds are usually out of range of human hearing, although some lower frequency calls are certainly audible. They can, however, be heard on a bat detector, which converts the sounds the bat makes into ones that can be heard by humans.

Devon is blessed to be home to 16 of the 17 British breeding bat species, including rarities such as Lesser and Greater horseshoe bats, Grey long-eared bats and Barbastelles. Living in such a special place, Devon Bat Group aims to promote the interests of bats in Devon by helping to protect bats and their habitats.

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