Young country diary: The sky is full of frantically flapping bats

Redbridge, east London: Two bats are scything through the air together – are they next year’s parents meeting for the first time?

As dusk falls over east London, we arrive in Wanstead Park to unmask the local bats. Down at the pond, a gap in the tree-tunnel gives way to swooping bats, silhouetted against the blue-grey sky. We can tell the species apart from the frequency and pattern of the clicks on the bat detectors. The common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) traversing overhead sounds like ball bearings slapping the side of a plastic pot. The Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii) fly swiftly over the water, their scattergun clicks reverberating off their prey.

As we reach the dam at the end of the pond, the track opens out and the trees clear to reveal an uninterrupted stretch of pond. The sky fills with frantically flapping flittermice. It is here that we distinguish the soprano pipistrelle’s (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) higher frequency buzz as they pluck prey from the air.

Nate batwatching in Wanstead park.
Nate batwatching in Wanstead park. Photograph: Family handout

Over the summer the female bats have clustered together to raise their young in maternity roosts. Now the pups have fledged and the adults are looking for new mates. Occasionally, we see pairs of bats scything through the air together and hear their social calls – perhaps next year’s parents greeting each other for the first time?

It’s starting to get cold and dark and our devices are silent. We leave the park with renewed enthusiasm for our furry neighbours, and a plan to return after their winter of hibernation.
Nate, 10

• Read today’s other YCD: ‘A fungi fest and a dip in the loch’

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