International Bat Night – A guide to watching bats

What is International Bat Night?

Last weekend, more than 30 countries celebrated International Bat Night. This annual celebration of bats and bat conservation saw events running throughout the country. We went out with a few of our favourite entry-level bat detectors to listen for bats around the Devon countryside. If you missed out on an event, or perhaps you’ve never been on a bat walk before, below we have some information on how you can watch and help your local bats yourself.

How can I help bats?

It is easy to encourage bats into your garden and there are many things you can do to help your neighborhood bats. Changing the way you garden and putting up a bat box can help tremendously. Have a read of our guide to helping your local bats for some ideas and inspiration.

How to watch bats

If you want to go out and watch bats yourself this weekend, you may not have to travel as far as you think. Bats live all over the UK in the countryside, towns and cities. Head down to your local patch of woodland, park or even your own back garden around sunset and watch the sky. Some bats fly quite high in the sky around the tops of trees, others fly lower, even at eye level. If you have a large pond, river or lake nearby, watch the surface of the water and you might see a Daubenton’s bat skim across the surface catching insects. Warm, dry and relatively still nights are best when it comes to bat watching. You are more likely to see bats around sunset and sunrise and they can be seen between March and October. 

An Introduction to Bat Detectors

To really immerse yourself in the world of bats, it is worth using a bat detector.

Bats use calls for communication, navigation and hunting but these are at frequencies above that of most human hearing. So even if you’re watching dozens of bats above you, you’re unlikely to be able to hear their calls. Bat detectors are devices that convert these ultrasonic calls into audible sounds and because different bat species call at different frequencies, bat detectors can even help you identify which bat is calling. Bat detectors are great fun to use and can help you learn a lot about bats. There are several different types of bat detectors on the market, at varying prices and with varying features. We’ve highlighted some of our favourite, entry-level bat detectors below.

Magenta 4 & Magenta 5 – Heterodyne

Our most popular range of beginner detectors are the Magentas. The Magentas are incredibly easy to use with a frequency dial to allow you to tune to a certain frequency, a front-facing speaker so that you can hear the converted bat calls, and a volume dial. They use a method of call processing called Heterodyne which works by tuning to one frequency at a time. The only difference between the Magenta 4 and the Magenta 5 is that the 5 has a digital display of the frequency that you are tuned to whereas the 4 has the frequencies on the tuning wheel which is lit by a small light. You can use Magentas with headphones and even record the outputted calls with a recorder (available separately).

Batscanner – Super-Heterodyne

The Batscanner is one of the easiest detectors to use, automatically scanning the whole frequency range and adjusting accordingly when it detects a bat, displaying the peak frequency on the digital display. This means you don’t have to tune anything and you won’t miss a bat because you’re tuned to the wrong frequency. The call output is clear and the Batscanner intelligently filters out non-bat low frequency calls giving you a clean, noise-free output.

Baton & Duet – Frequency Division

The BatBox Baton is perhaps even more simple to use than the Magentas, with just 1 button operation – the on/off button. You do not need to tune this detector – it will automatically detect all frequencies simultaneously as it works through ‘frequency division’, where all ultrasonic calls are divided by a factor of 10, pushing them into the human hearing range. Audio is played through the front facing speaker and when the Baton is plugged into a computer, you can see sonograms (visual representation of bat call) on the software included with the Baton.

The BatBox Duet is a similar but more sophisticated detector that is great if you want to take your bat detecting to the next level. It used two modes of call processing: with heterodyne, you can tune the detector with the frequency dial and this is displayed on the backlit screen, much like a Magenta, but the detector also processes the ultrasonic sounds in frequency division mode and this can be captured using an audio recorder (available separately).

Echo Meter – Full Spectrum

The EchoMeter is a completely different type of bat detector but one that is very popular and has many amazing features, ideal for all levels of bat enthusiasts. It plugs into a compatible phone or tablet and with the help of a free app, turns your phone/tablet into a fully functional bat detector. The app displays live sonograms of bats and an intelligent algorithm identifies the most likely bat species based on the calls, all in real-time. The app can GPS tag your sightings and you can record, replay and download bat calls.

Other useful equipment and books

Listed below are some great kit and books to get you started or develop your knowledge on bat detecting and bat watching:

DIY bat detector
£24.98
If you have some basic soldering skills and fancy having a go at a DIY project, our DIY Bat Detector Kit has everything you need to build your own, simple heterodyne bat detector.

 

Zoom Handy Recorder: H1n
£95.00
This small, handheld audio recorder is ideal for plugging into your bat detector and recording the bat calls you are hearing. Recordings are stored on an SD card and can then be viewed on a computer to analyze further.

 

Petzl Tikkina Headtorch
£19.99
This handy headtorch will keep your hands free when you’re trying to change settings or navigate in the dark. The Petzl Tikkina has a bright, clean 250 lumen beam and has a simple, one-button operation.

 

A Guide to British Bats
£3.50
FSC’s ‘A Guide to British Bats’ is a fold out, laminated guide to help you identify bats through physical appearance and call frequency.

 

British Bat Calls: A Guide to Species Identification
£31.99
This practical guide is perfect for learning more about bat detectors and bat species identification. It covers topics such as how bats use sound, bat detection methods,  analysis software, recording techniques and call analysis.

 

The Bat Detective: A Field Guide to Bat Detection
£24.99
This field guide is perfect for beginners wanting to start learning how to identify bats from their calls. As each topic is explained references are given to the relevant tracks on the CD. The 48 tracks found here are the first ever compilation of British bat recordings on CD.

NHBS Guide to Bat Survey Equipment

Common Pipistrelle by Meneer Zjeroen on Flickr

With Spring around the corner and the bat survey season fast approaching, it is a great time to make sure you have everything ready for the busy months ahead. Over the winter we have been busy reviewing our current products, cataloging new products and even designing our own products. Here, we have picked out some exciting new products as well as some old favourites to take a look at.

The NHBS Harp Trap – Coming Soon!

Over the last few months, the NHBS manufacturing team have been working hard on developing the NHBS Harp Trap. We are currently in the process of testing and trialing our harp trap ready for its release in the coming months. Designed and built on-site at our workshop in Totnes, our three-bank harp trap will feature some innovative designs such as a winding line carrier and anti-tangling system that makes assembly and disassembly, easy and efficient. Made mostly from aluminium, the trap is surprisingly lightweight at just 15kg, whilst remaining sturdy and durable during use. The harp trap is 190cm long and has a catch area of about 4m². The catch bag is approximately 60cm deep and its entrance is about 39cm wide. When collapsed, the catch bag wraps around the disassembled frame and is held tightly with Velcro straps so that it can be neatly stored and carried in its bag. Initial feedback on its design and function has been very positive and we are excited to develop our design based upon suggestions from professional bat workers. Our standard trap will be a three bank, but if you would like a bespoke two or four bank trap, please contact us so that we can discuss your requirements.

BTHK Tree-Roost Net

Based on the design by Henry Andrews from the Bat Tree Habitat Key (BTHK) project, the BTHK Tree-Roost net is uniquely designed for trapping bats as they emerge from tree roost sites. The net is set up against a roost site prior to dusk so that it will catch any bats that emerge, keeping them safely in the bag ready for identification, measuring and ringing. The diamond shape of the net head can pivot and collapse inwards to ensure that the net fits flush against any tree, making it safer for bats and easier for surveyors. The net bag is made from fine woven nylon mesh that is soft and will not damage the delicate wings or feet of bats. The net bag can be easily removed for cleaning and features a clear plastic rim that fits around the collar and prevents bats from climbing up and out of the net when it is in place. The length of the handle is 4 meters (breaks down into 3 sections for ease of transport) and the depth of the bag is 1 metre. You may also be interested in the book Bat Roosts in Trees which is a guide to finding tree roosts.

Anabat Scout – Coming Soon!

The Anabat Scout is the latest bat detector by Titley Scientific. Due for release this March, the Scout is designed with UK and European bat biologists in mind and is tailored for active bat surveying. It can record both full spectrum and zero crossing files and stores them on a SD card with every file geo-tagged. The Scout has heterodyne, auto-heterodyne and frequency division audio that can be played through earphones or its own built-in speaker. The in/out bat counter is ideal for emergence surveys and will automatically timestamp and geo-tag every count. The small OLED screen displays crucial information without being too bright or distracting and the Anabat Scout will be compatible with Anabat’s free Anabat Insight software for viewing and analysing your data. Easy to use and versatile, this new detector is set to become popular with bat ecologists who are looking for an active survey detector.

Elekon Batlogger M

The Elekon Batlogger M is great for active surveying and full spectrum recording. The weatherproof FG Knowles microphone has a range of 10–150kHz and can record in 16-bit full spectrum. The Batlogger M also logs the GPS coordinates (via an integrated GPS receiver), and environmental temperature at the time of recording. Different recording settings (scheduled, permanent, or triggered), and different trigger thresholds (for call identification) can be set up and the device comes with its own powerful but user-friendly call analysis software package

Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro

The Echo Meter Touch 2 lets you record, listen to, and identify bat calls in real-time on your iOS or Android device. All you need is your Android or Apple device (see the nhbs.com website for compatible models), your Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro, and the Echo Meter Touch App which is a free download from the iTunes Store or Google Play Store. When plugged in, the Echo Meter Touch 2 enables you to listen to bats in real time, view live sonograms in full colour, record onto your device and identify calls to species level in seconds. If your device has GPS functionality, the Echo Meter Touch will also log the recording location and path of the recording session. There are two versions available in both an iOS version and Android version. Both versions allow you to listen to calls in real time expansion and heterodyne and you can playback in real time expansion, heterodyne or time expansion modes. The trigger sensitivity and sample rate are adjustable and three gain settings allowing users to optimise their detector to their target bat species and ambient conditions.

SM4BAT FS

The SM4BAT FS is a full spectrum detector for passive surveying use. Robust and weatherproof, it will record 16-bit full spectrum calls and can store up to 512GB of data. A versatile scheduling function allows you to set when you want to record and the battery can last up to 450 hours. The SM4BAT FS is easy to fit to a tree or post and is compatible with a variety of accessories such as GPS unit and microphone extension cables. The SMM-U2 ultrasonic microphone is available with the SM4BAT FS and is a highly sensitive microphone that produces high quality, low noise bat recordings over long distances. Easy to set up and producing detailed call recordings for analysis, the SM4BAT FS is ideal for unattended use in the field.

Anabat Swift

The Anabat Swift from Titley Scientific is based on the excellent design of the Anabat Express, but has the advantage of recording in full-spectrum, as well as zero crossing. Users can choose between sample rates of 320 or 500kHz and data is saved onto an SD card. Two SD card slots are available, allowing you to save more bat calls without changing cards. The Swift also has a built-in GPS receiver that automatically sets the clock, calculates sunset and sunrise times and records the location of the device. It will also record automatically from sunrise to sunset every night (based on GPS coordinates) as one of the automatic recording settings.

BatLure

The BatLure can be used as a lure to improve catch rates of bats for survey or research, to attract bats to new artificial roosts such as bat boxes or constructed hibernacula, with bat detectors at training events or prior to bat walks and for calibration of bat detectors. The Batlure can playback sounds with frequencies of up to 100kHz and is capable of playing both real time and time expanded recordings of bat vocalisations. It is very compact and robust and has a tripod attachment mount, making it easy to set-up in your desired location. It plays sounds from an SD card which is supplied complete with several pre-loaded recordings. Users can also add their own recordings onto the card.

Ecotone Ultra Thin Series M mist net for bats

The Ecotone Ultra Thin Series M is ideal for catching bats and is available in 2 mesh sizes. Both are made from nylon (0.8mm monofilament) and have 4 shelves. Available in lengths from 3m to 21m, you can pick the mesh size and length that best suits your survey and situation.

 

Explorer Premium Digital Endoscope Camera

The Explorer Premium Digital Endoscope is lightweight and easy to operate. It can record still images or video on to a microSD / microSDHC card (not included). The screen can be detached whilst the camera is in operation and viewed up to 10m away. The camera head has a diameter of 9mm and the cable is 91cm long, giving easy access to nest boxes, burrows, nests, crevices etc. Lighting levels can be adjusted to minimise disturbance to animals.

Accessories

Below are some accessories that may come in use when surveying bats:

Petzl Actik Headtorch
£39.95

Stainless Steel Hand-Held Counter
£7.50

Animal Handling Gloves
£5.69 5.99

dialMax Vernier Dial Caliper
£29.99

ETI Hygro-Thermo Pocket Sized Hygrometer
£21.95 26.99

Small Mammal Holding Bag
£3.60

Telescopic Inspection Mirror
£14.99 16.99

High Flier Mist Net Support System (for Bats)
 from £695.00

Further Reading

Below are some books that may come in use when surveying bats:

Bat Roosts in Trees£39.99
British Bat Calls £18.99
Bat Surveys for Professional Ecologists£29.99
The Bat Worker’s Manual£17.99

A note on licensing

Please note that in the UK, all bats and their resting or breeding places are protected by law. Any bat survey work must be undertaken by a licensed bat ecologist and when purchasing certain products, we ask you to confirm your lisence or give an appropriate reference. For more information, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/bat-licences.

NHBS Field Sessions: Waterway Surveys for Daubenton’s Bats

NHBS’ staff members are wild about wildlife! To showcase this, we are encouraging our team to write blogs about their experiences with nature.

During the Summer months, Jon Flynn, a member of NHBS’ Wildlife Equipment Team attended a number of Waterway Surveys for Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii). Read more about his survey experiences below:

Stretch of the River Teign captured by Westcountry Rivers Trust via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
Stretch of the River Teign captured by Westcountry Rivers Trust via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

“On Monday 6th July I took part in a Waterway Survey for Daubenton’s bat along a stretch of the River Teign in Devon. The survey is completed twice per year in conjunction with the Bat Conservation Trust and is part of an ongoing data collection programme for bat species around the UK. The lead for this particular survey was John Mitchell who has been surveying this particular length of the Teign, near Teigngrace, for a good number of years. It was my third survey there.

The survey was due to start 40 minutes after sunset, so we met at 9.00pm and made our way along the edge of a maize field to arrive at our first stopping point. This was to be a transect survey which meant walking a length of the river bank and stopping at ten predetermined points to record bat activity at each one. We stood at the river’s edge and immediately noticed that the river level was a lot lower than it was during our last visit a year or so ago. We recorded air temperature and cloud cover and, as we prepared, various species of bats could already be seen zooming around the trees and openings as they commenced another night of nocturnal foraging. The air was very warm, still and humid, and flying insects were everywhere including a host of moths and some less welcome biting species.

As the light faded it was time to start. With bat detectors switched on and earphones in place, we directed a torch beam on the river’s surface and awaited the arrival of the first Daubenton’s.

Looking for bats at twilight by Nic McPhee via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
Looking for bats at twilight by Nic McPhee via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

The Daubenton’s bat is a species which typically occupies riparian woodland.  They often roost in trees along the river bank and hunt by skimming low over the surface of the water for insects. They can take prey from the water’s surface using their feet or tail membrane.

As bats skimmed through the torch beam we were able to count them. We counted the number of passes that we observed and for this a clicker counter is always useful! The bats that we heard but did not see were also recorded as additional information. I set my Magenta 5 at 50hz and listened whilst John relied on his trusty and more accomplished Bat Box Duet.

After four minutes on the stopwatch we finished counting, compared counts and wrote down results. At stop number 1 there were certainly bats present, but they were swooping around quite high above the water surface and not showing the typical behaviour of Daubenton’s – John was dubious that they were our target species so we recorded them only as potential sightings.

Using GPS devices and torches we left for Survey Point 2 further down the river bank and repeated the same process as before. At this location there was no denying that these WERE Daubenton’s bats, as the torch beam caught their pale almost white ventral fur, confirming their identity. Our detectors were full of noise too, including the typical intense zap as a bat homed in on prey.

A close-up of a Daubenton's bat. Image captured by Gilles San Martin via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
A close-up of a Daubenton’s bat. Image captured by Gilles San Martin via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

On we progressed with eight more stopping points to go. Occasionally our river bank scrambles took us through thickets of invasive Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glanduliferaand Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) a sobering reminder of how our countryside is changing. The night remained still and warm and it almost felt like we were in a different country.

After eight more stops my watch said 11:20pm. It was good to see that bats were in profusion that night, as John stated ‘It was one of the best ever totals, with one stopping point recording over 50 passes!‘.

Two weeks later and we repeated the process. But this second night felt noticeably cooler and there were fewer insects on the wing. Nevertheless bats were still out and about in reasonable numbers and an average score was calculated between the two Waterway surveys.  Overall there were encouraging signs that the Daubenton’s bat continues to do well along this particular stretch of the Teign.”

To find out more information about the various bat detectors available, go to our website. To find out more about how you can help bats in your local area, have a look at our handy guide.

If you like the idea of taking part in Waterway Surveys (or other kinds of bat surveys) then contact the Bat Conservation Trust or have a look at their website here. It’s great fun and you can put your bat detector to important use!

Firmware update for the Anabat Express

Express Firmware 5506J

Anabat Toolbox 1.17

Titley Scientific has released a new firmware for your AnaBat Express.  It fixes a problem with the timezone recorded in GPS transect log files.

Run Anabat Toolbox and install the update. Then connect your Anabat Express via USB to upgrade the firmware.

Firmware updates from Wildlife Acoustics

New Firmware available for SM2, SM3 and SMZC product families

These firmware updates all address an SD card compatibility issue we have recently seen in a number of specific SD card models. If you have experienced SD card errors or corruption, this firmware update may resolve these issues.

SM3/SM3BAT/SM3M Firmware 1.2.7

In addition to the SD card issue above, this version also improves the interpretation of a program containing non-infinite loops. The firmware can be found here.

SMZC Firmware 1.0.6

In addition to the SD card issue above, this version also improves the interpretation of a program containing non-infinite loops. The firmware can be found here.

SM2/SM2BAT/SM2M Firmware 3.3.9

The firmware can be found here.

You can contact support2015@wildlifeacoustics.com if you have any questions.

Batbox III Featured on BBC’s Coast Programme

Check out this video from the most recent BBC Coast TV programme featuring the Batbox III bat detector.  The detector is used to locate bats living in an old World War II bunker on the Normandy coast. The video shows how you can "hear" the bats with the detector before you can see them – a compelling reason for having a bat detector.

The Batbox III detector features at about the 38th minute…
View the video now

The Batbox III bat detector is one of the best-selling bat detectors here at NHBS – order today and get started bat detecting!

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