Bats are among my favourite regular garden visitors. Other people may listen for the first cuckoo of spring, or look out for the returning swallows, but for me the first bat flying past my bedroom window marks the beginning of the warm season, and their disappearance tells me winter is on the way.
I sleep with my bedroom curtains open. My bedroom backs on to open fields and is not overlooked at all so I don't worry about privacy. I love to look at the stars or simply the clouds, although the moon is never visible from my bedroom window which is a bit sad. I like to be woken by the sunrise and in particular I like to watch the bats. I wish I could show you a photograph but they're incredibly fast and almost impossible to photograph on the wing, and I don't know where they roost so I can't show you a photograph of them resting. The (rather fuzzy) photo I have included is of some bats we saw roosting in a souterrain in Craggaunowen in Ireland last year.
I don't know what species they are. There are 17 species of bat in Britain, which is about a quarter of all our mammal species. The most common is the common pipistrelle, which is also the smallest at less than 2 inches long. The rarest is the greater mouse-eared bat which was thought to be extinct in this country but was recently discovered living in the south of England. The largest British bat is the noctule, but even this is only about 3 inches long and weighs less than 1 1/2 oz (40g). British bats are diddy, although their wingspans make them look bigger than that.
Sadly, like much of our native wildlife, British bats are in trouble. A combination of loss of habitat and insecticides wiping out their prey has caused their numbers to decline sharply. Now all British bats are protected by law. It is illegal to harm them or disturb them, or muck about with their roosting sites.
I've recently discovered you can get bat detectors - electronic devices which can hear the bats' sonar sounds and can identify the bat from the frequency of its squeak. They're not cheap, but maybe my local bat conservation group or wildlife trust can lend me one to identify my bats. I'll be looking into that and I'll tell you how I get on.
If you want to find out more about British bats, visit the Bat Conservation Trust.