Did you know we have 18 species of bat currently in the UK? 17 of those breed here, so there are lots of opportunities to see bats yourself. Below, take a look at the Wildlife Trust nature reserves where you can spot these fascinating mammals!
So what do you know about bats?
Bats are nocturnal creatures, only seen very occasionally during the day, and the focus of many myths and folk lores. As such, sometimes misunderstandings can arise and bats sadly aren't always seen as the most charismatic of animals.
But what's the truth?
In fact, like us bats are mammals. They give birth to live, defenceless young that feed on their mother's milk. UK species of bats range in size from the pipistrelle, weighing only about the same as a 2p coin, to the noctule, which weighs in at up to 40g (about the same as four £1 coins!).
All British bats eat insects, which makes them a gardener's friend. Each species has its own favourites, but they all need a lot to keep them satisfied as flying uses lots of energy. A pipistrelle bat can eat more than 500 tiny insects in just an hour!
Bats are also at risk. With fewer wooded areas, ponds and open grass spaces for them to feed and roost, their habitat is shrinking.
Wild About Gardens
All bat species and their roosts are now legally protected. Never disturb a bat box once its up.
In 2016 bats are also the focus of our Wild About Gardens partnership! We've got lots of resources and information about how you can help bats in your neighbourhood. Take a look here.
The best time to see bats is at dusk and between the month of April-September, before hibernation. Why not get outside with a bat detector? Please note, bats are protected species, and any disturbance to them, and to known roosts, is against the law.
Avon Wildlife Trust
This reserve is a fantastic place to see bats, with 13 species now found there! It is, however, particularly famed for the threatened greater horseshoe bat, as the old mines offer a safe sanctuary.
Standing high above the river Avon with commanding views towards Bath, Browne's Folly boasts flower-rich grasslands and ancient woodland on the remains of old Bath stone quarries, which has been designated as a SSSI.
Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust
Finemere is a magnificent woodland - home to birds, bats and butterflies, where you can forget the stresses of everyday life.
This is a well-surveyed woodland with the North Bucks Bat Group carrying out funded work, including ringing Bechstein's bats. This rare and secretive species of bat relies on the presence of tall trees, where they seek out insects to pluck from branches and leaves.
This is a great reserve to learn more about bats, as there is an interpretation board with information on some of the bat species that can be see at this reserve.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust
Hilton Gravel Pits SSSI
This special nature reserve is an old gravel pit which has been restored for wildlife. In the early evening daubenton bats swoop, twist and turn over the large open pools, putting on a great show! Take a bat detector down and see how many you can find.
In addition, recently the barbastelle bat was recorded on the site for the first time, which is also the first time it has been recorded in Derbyshire.
As well as bats, this reserve is a haven for wildfowl, with the ponds attacting tufted ducks and great-crested grebe. A streak of blue flashing across the water will alert you to the presence of a kingfisher!
Devon Wildlife Trust
Devon Wildlife Trust's Bystock Pools nature reserve, with its mixture of woodland, heathland and open grassland, has records of many bat species, including noctule, serotine and lesser horseshoe.
A great time to visit is during East Devon Heath Week, at the end of July, when volunteers lead evening walks to see and hear bats, as well as nightjars and glow worms.
Make sure you bring your binoculars as this reserve is also great for birds. Head to the heathland to spot willow warblers, blackcaps and stonechats.
Durham Wildlife Trust
Low Barns Nature Reserve
Low Barns Nature Reserve near Witton-le-Wear is a great place to experience bats, this SSSI woodland, wetland and species-rich grassland habitat provides perfect roosting and foraging habitat for soprano pipistrelles, common pipistrelles, noctules and dorbentons.
Visitors to the reserve can watch soprano pipistrelles as they emerge from their roost above the visitor centre entrance, the daubentons feeding above the River Wear, which runs through the reserve, is another nightly event not to be missed.
Essex Wildlife Trust
Between April and October, 400-500 Soprano pipistrelle bats gather in the roof of the visitor centre, in a maternity roost.
Essex Wildlife Trust run a number of events for the public to experience the spectacle of the bats emerging at dusk, with bat detectors to allow visitors to listen to the bats.
April to October 400-500 Soprano Pipistrelle Bats gather in the roof of the visitor centre, in a maternity roost. We run a number of events for the public to experience the spectacle of the bats emerging at dusk – and then to use bat detectors to listen to the bats. Events are listed here.
Belfairs Woodland Centre
Led by the Centre Manager, skilled staff help people access the fantastic natural and cultural heritage of this area. The Education and Community Officer works with schools to provide forest education within the woodlands, where children learn about the environment, wildlife and nature and gain practical skills, and organises events, indoors and outdoors, for all the family to enjoy.
Throughout the summer the Centre holds bat related events, with children's events also coinciding with Wild About Gardens Week in October.
Why not visit this family-friendly reserve? Find out more information.
Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust
Panshanger Park is made up of a mosaic of habitats including woodlands, wetlands, grasslands and reedbeds making it a fantastic refuge for a huge variety of wildlife.
Pipistrelles can be found in the wooded areas of the park and Daubenton's hunt for insects over the lakes.
Panshanger Park is a 1,000 acre site owned by Tarmac, of which 200 acres is currently open to the public. The Trust is working with Tarmac and Herts County Council to manage the park for both people and wildlife.
Lancashire Wildlife Trust
Boilton Wood is one of the last remaining areas of ancient woodland in Lancashire and its main path (pictured) is a highway for bats as well as walkers. Both soprano and common pipistrelle use the path, and they are joined by noctule and Daubenton's. The latter also make great use of the nearby lakes of Brockholes nature reserve, and paths from Brockholes make access to Boilton easy.
Boggy ground around the wood is a breeding ground for insects which offer a wonderfully diverse buffet for the bats.
The woodland has a wide range in ages of trees, offering plenty of shelter for the bats and their young. Find out how you can visit here.
Aren't able to travel to Boilton Wood? Other Lancashire bat 'hot-spots' are:
North Wales Wildlife Trust
This nature reserve is a fantastic example of a place where wildlife can thrive in a post-industrial setting. Gwaith Powdwr was once the biggest explosives works in Europe. It was donated to the North Wales Wildlife Trust by ICI in 1998 and is now managed as a nature reserve.
The best place to see bats at the reserve is at the 'Settling Pool'. Species most likely to be seen there are Daubentons and pipistelles, but noctules, brown long-eared and lesser horseshoes have also been recorded on the reserve.
The perfect time of the year is visit is June-July, when there's also the chance to hear nightjars churring and seeing glow-worms as well!
Northumberland Wildlife Trust
Big Waters is the largest subsidence pond in the region, formed by the collapse of deep mine workings. The presence of the large lake, and a smaller one, means that this is a haven for bats, as they can forage over the water’s edge and in the trees and grasslands around them.
Weetslade Country Park
A former colliery site, this reserve has been extensively landscaped to create a wildlife haven on the edge of the city with a hill, grassland, scrub, reedbed and woodland areas, which offers a range of habitats for bats.
It's also a great reserve to see birds, such as grey partridge, meadow pipit and skylark.
Radnorshire Wildlife Trust
Bailey Einon is an ancient woodland, which runs alongside the River Ithon. This reserve is a good place to spot Daubenton's feeding along the river - try watching from Shaky Bridge, adjacent to the reserve entrance, or follow the boardwalk trail and go down the steps to where the path runs close to the river.
Other wildlife to keep a look out for here includes otter, cardinal beetles, early purple orchids and buzzard.
Scottish Wildlife Trust
Falls of Clyde Reserve and Visitor Centre
The 16th century ruins of Corra Castle provide a perfect roosting spot for pipistrelle and Daubenton’s bats.
Natterer’s and whiskered bats have also been recorded on this reserve, which is famous for spectacular waterfalls and scenic woodland walks. The Trust holds regular bat and badger walks throughout the year, which are not to be missed!
Tees Valley Wildlife Trust
This wetland nature reserve is one of the best places to see bats in the Tees Valley. The site includes a variety of habitats, including a main expanse of open water which is surrounded by fenland, with dense beds of common reed and reedmace.
The surrounding woodland, hedges and farmland helps to increase the diversity of wildlife found here. Noctule and pipistrelle can be seen here, especially along the path and old railway line, with Daubenton's feeding over the ponds.
Glenarm Nature Reserve in the Glens of Antrim is home to all 8 species of bat found in Northern Ireland, as well as being a beautiful nature reserve. Take a bat detector along and see how many species you can find.
If you're a bird-lover, this is also a great reserve to visit. At Glenarm, you will find Northern Ireland priority birds such as mistle thrush, song thrush, grasshopper warbler, spotted flycatcher, starling, bullfinch and reed bunting and other notables, such as the kingfisher, dipper, wood warbler, garden warbler and common crossbill.
Credits: Noctule bat, Hilton Gravel Pits, Low Barns, Panshanger & Falls of Clyde (c) Tom Marshall; Browne's Folly (c) Avon Wildlife Trust; Finemere Wood (c) Susan Makepeace; Bystock Pools (c) Devon Wildlife Trust; Hanningfield (c) David Bailes; Belfairs (c) David Shapiro; Bolton Wood (c) Lancashire Wildlife Trust; Gwaith Powdwr (c) Damien Hughes; Big Waters & Weetslade (c) Duncan Hutt; Bailey Einon (c) Radnorshire Wildlife Trust; Margrove Ponds (c) Tees Valley Wildlife Trust; Glenarm (c) Ulster Wildlife Trust