I must admit that, prior to the walk, bats didn't cross my mind very often. They were, at most, something on the edge of my consciousness. I was sometimes aware of their fleeting presence - half seen, half felt - in that curious transitory period between sunset and nightfall, but only ever briefly. A passing shadow on the edge of my peripheral vision or sudden sense of movement near the eaves of the roof, but that was it - I'd turn to look at them directly and they'd be gone in a second, leaving me with the impression that, while there had definitely been some sort of encounter, it never actually felt as if I'd properly 'seen' a bat...
So when Hilary and Jane, of the Wildlife Trusts, offered to make a bat walk in SQP a reality, I jumped at the chance. We met just before sunset on a night that we learnt was pretty much perfect for bats and, while Hilary was going through some brief theory with us, the first bat made it's appearance. With bat detectors at the ready we made a slow circuit of the park - walking down the steps into the woodland before traversing the boundary by the play area and coming back to the raised beds. For me, the experience was magical. I realised that it is quite rare for me to be outside just experiencing and enjoying the dusk (usually, I am trying to put the bins out, get the washing in and generally packing up for the day. The bats, on the other hand, are just starting theirs.) and this, added to the excitement of sharing the space with a creature that we don't often get to sense or see, was incredible. The bat detectors also really helped in this regard since, even on a bat walk, bats are hard to see clearly as darkness arrives. And yet, with the detectors, which translates their sounds into ones that the human ear can hear, their presence becomes even more vivid and special. As we stood in a group and a bat came across, it would create a fascinating wave of sounds across the detectors and it really felt as if we were sharing the beauty of the dusk with these amazing animals in an entirely new way.
The whole experience definitely gave me a new respect for bats and also reminded me of how partial the human perspective on everything is. I tried to imagine what the park might be like for a bat and what impression, if any, they have of us as our worlds cross briefly at dusk and dawn.
The good news is that we now have some funding for further training with Hilary, which will enable us to learn more about bats and how to help create a better habitat for them in the park. This will take place on Sunday 1st October from 1pm. If you're from a local green space group and would like to come along, so that you can learn these skills and take them back to your own project, you'd be very welcome. However, places are limited so please contact me to book: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07840 157771