The Last Bat
June 12, 2018 1:12 AM   Subscribe

The last bat: the mystery of Britain’s most solitary animal We cannot speak of its loneliness, but it must be Britain’s most solitary animal. For the last 16 years, every winter, a male greater mouse-eared bat has taken up residence 300 metres inside a disused and exceedingly damp railway tunnel in West Sussex. The greater mouse-eared bat has been all but extinct in this country for decades. [SLGuardian]
posted by halcyonday (20 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
What is it like to be a lonely bat?
posted by pracowity at 2:20 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Just came here from that very article! Reaching for a joke about where does Michael Gove go in winter but it's not happening. Anyway, if we're fairly sure the bat isn't breeding here, why not transport it to be part of a thriving colony on the Continent?
posted by runincircles at 2:34 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


I've read a lot of British nature writing and one thing that always bothered me is that the term 'extinct' is used as a shorthand for 'extinct in Britain' This was panic-inducing at first when I'd look up from my book after reading "What!! The BlahBlah is almost extinct!!" - quick Google - "Oh..there's millions of them on the Continent and across Eurasia."

Also from the Guardian, Chris Packham warning of ecological apocalypse in Britain. Having lived in the English countryside, I can attest to the fact that all those pretty rolling green fields you see in photos are, by and large, pesticide laden farmland.

Bats have very few places to roost. They are usually driven out from buildings, despite their protected status, and are even being pushed from their last refuge - churches. So what is left I suppose, except for exceedingly damp railway tunnels.
posted by vacapinta at 2:54 AM on June 12 [7 favorites]


One in 10 UK wildlife species faces extinction, major report shows (2016):
More than one in 10 of the UK’s wildlife species are threatened with extinction and the numbers of the nation’s most endangered creatures have plummeted by two-thirds since 1970, according to a major report.

The abundance of all wildlife has also fallen, with one in six animals, birds, fish and plants having been lost, the State of Nature report found.

Together with historical deforestation and industrialisation, these trends have left the UK “among the most nature-depleted countries in the world”, with most of the country having gone past the threshold at which “ecosystems may no longer reliably meet society’s needs”.
UK’s favourite wildlife species at risk of extinction ‘without revolution in disastrous modern food farming’ (2018):
Numbers of grey partridges, corn buntings and tree sparrows have dropped by at least 90 per cent in 40 years, leaving them all at risk of vanishing from Britain.

Earlier this month, a new report revealed that the number of hedgehogs in the countryside had more than halved since 2000. Nearly two-thirds of Britain’s skylarks and lapwings have disappeared, the European bird census showed, while Birdlife International says 95 per cent of turtle doves have vanished in 20 years.

The barn owl – voted the UK’s favourite farmland bird – has suffered a drop of two-thirds in its population since the 1930s because modern agricultural practices have wiped out huge numbers of their prey – mice and voles. By the 1990s, numbers were down to an estimated 4,000 from about 12,000 pairs in the 1930s.

In Scotland, more than half of all upland birds have suffered a “significant long-term decline”, according to statistics earlier this month. Scottish Natural Heritage revealed that 10 of the 17 upland species fell in numbers between 1994 and 2016. Curlew numbers were down 62 per cent and lapwing down 63 per cent.

Nightingale numbers are also shrinking, the bird confined to south-east England, again blamed on loss of habitat.
posted by kersplunk at 5:14 AM on June 12 [7 favorites]


I've read a lot of British nature writing and one thing that always bothered me is that the term 'extinct' is used as a shorthand for 'extinct in Britain'

Well, with Brexit and all...

Bats have very few places to roost. They are usually driven out from buildings, despite their protected status, and are even being pushed from their last refuge - churches.


Right, so at this point, this bat is less an example of his species than a metaphor.
posted by Naberius at 6:34 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


You have to read to the end of this article to find the good news, but it is there: 'the Bat Conservation Trust’s systematic monitoring of 10 species since the start of this century has revealed an unexpected picture: nine of these appear to be increasing in number'.
posted by verstegan at 6:46 AM on June 12


I was chatting with someone in my village yesterday. Despite both having gardens absolutely full of flowers, neither of us have seen a butterfly so far this year, and there are very few pollinating insects. I'm well aware that these things vary from year to year, depending on the preceding year's weather, but it's alarming how little wildlife there is to be found even here in the countryside right now.
posted by pipeski at 7:38 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]




I try and go for a walk everyday and include the small local nature reserve two of three times a week. I've seen one butterfly so far this year. One.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:08 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Insect decline has been a thing for some time. The bats are merely a reflection of this.

And yet, up and down our Connecticut road I see signs for Pest Control! Mosquito Treatment! Warning! Lawn Care!
posted by BWA at 8:13 AM on June 12 [5 favorites]


Build a bat house (PDF, USDA, Hoosier National Forest edition)
Buy a bat house (various addresses)
Amazon, too
posted by pracowity at 9:39 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Bat friend, please come live with me

I will find you many delicious things to feast on

And bring you to work with me so you can freak the fuck out of clients who have been rude to me and my team

10/10 win win for both of us
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:05 AM on June 12 [6 favorites]


Where my dad lives, it's been white-nose. He's well out in the country with lots of good bat roosts, it being forest and mountains, but the bats that used to swarm the sunset sky are all but gone. It's led to an increase in tree swallows, which he's fond of, but he misses his bats greatly.
posted by tavella at 11:38 AM on June 12


How had i not heard the word flittermouse before?
posted by D.C. at 11:43 AM on June 12


Sorry for the slight derail but it is impossible to read this without the context of politics and the environment.

I do recommend a bat detector, wonderful little devices. You can aim it around and adjust the frequency and "hear" any bats flying around nearby. My greatest experience was during a visit to FSC Orielton where we all had bat detectors and at dusk went to a visit a known bat roost. Suddenly, hundreds of bats flying out at us, the clicking of our detectors going off like mad. And older lady who was with us and had struck me as a very stern, grumpy type suddenly started giggling and laughing like a little girl. It was this same sense of wonder we all felt.

In the UK countryside around us, there was the Daubenton's bats who were catching insects over the water and the Pipistrelles skulking through the trees, flying by the river. The most poetic one for me was the Noctule. In the evening, the swifts would appear, flying back and forth, and slowly as dusk came, the swifts would fly higher chasing the sun and then start flying way. But one swift would remain, swinging back and forth across the sky. Then you realize it was not a swift at all but a bat and since it moves like a swift was hiding among them. Another name for the Noctule is the 'Night Swift'

There was also a Horshoe bat colony about a mile from us although they never came as far as our place for some reason. They seem to be doing well. We also went to see them leave their roost. By the way, bats don't leave their roost like in the movies, with them flying out in all directions like birds. They stay close to walls and hedges and surfaces so what you see instead is something like rapid black shadows across the walls, like ink droplets flying out in three dimensions.

So, yeah, it bothers me and angers and saddens me that we could be doing anything to lose all this.
posted by vacapinta at 12:15 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


And bring you to work with me so you can freak the fuck out of clients who have been rude to me and my team

You might consider that as a rule, bats prefer to spend office hours sleeping. It's sort of necessary to their health.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:19 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


This makes my heart hurt, as do the linked studies and reports.
posted by ApathyGirl at 3:32 PM on June 12


bats prefer to spend office hours sleeping.

Same
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:13 PM on June 12 [7 favorites]


By the way, bats don't leave their roost like in the movies, with them flying out in all directions like birds.

Weeellll... it depends what bats you are talking about.
posted by tavella at 4:37 PM on June 12


You might consider that as a rule, bats prefer to spend office hours sleeping.

My clients think my office hours are when I am sleeping so having a bat friend to remind them what business hours actually are would be most excellent

I mean I guess I could make do by just making bat like screeching sounds into my phone and hope that gets my message across whenever a client calls me at 2am and manages to get through my voicemail blockade even though they know I will not pick up and they shouldn't even try

But having a real live bat to do it for me???

Sooooooooo much better
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:49 PM on June 12


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