Shining a light on Bats, by Albert Nolan.

Super Article in this weeks Limerick Leader on Limericks newly formed Bat Group by Albert Nolan
Shining a light on Bats.
The first real day of spring, brought welcome sunshine, and a clear blue sky. Nature stirred in every corner of the countryside, and I dusted of the moth trap, in anticipation of the nocturnal insects, that will soon be on the wing, in ever increasing numbers. The shining light of the trap, also attracts another creature of the night, and discarded moth wings in the morning, show that bats have been busy feeding.
Our relationship with the night has changed over the generations, and with that the creatures who inhabit its unseen depts. I remember my uncle telling me that before TV became common, they would leave the half door of the cottage open. Been the only light for miles, it was a beacon for wildlife.
At first the insects would arrive, and circle around the light, followed by the star of the night, a bat. He would chase an insect, and disappear outside to eat and return again. I loved this story, and have been fascinated by moths and bats since then.
But tales about bats are often double edged, and my grandmother would also tell us that bats would fly into our hair and get tangled. I think this story was told to young teenagers, to stop them going on long romantic night-time walks. A blind as a bat is really misleading as bats do have excellent eyesight.
With this in mind I found myself in the Library in the Crescent shopping centre, for the inaugural meeting of Limerick Bat group. I arrived to meet many familiar faces, and they all have an interest in the environment and nature.
I was soon chatting to Tanya Slattery who had arranged the meeting, and whose passion for nature and bats shines through. Her interest started in primary school, when a teacher of a different class, brought in a bat in a matchbox. Many a career in the environment was fostered by teachers, who brought students out to experience the natural world, before nature needed to be taught to children.
But wildlife is not a one sided relationship, and having trained as botanist, Tanya now works as an ecologists for JBA consulting in Grove Island. She has also done training with bat conservation in Ireland, and the UK, and taken part in many different surveys.
While we waited for the traffic to ease and people to arrive, more bat stories were shared. One lady told us how her dad had rescued a bat from a bucket of water. He carefully dried it with a hair dryer, gave it some food and released it back into the night. A gentle hand that I am sure fostered a continued love of nature in his daughter. Sally from West Limerick heritage brought in a bag of bat droppings and moth wings (no sign of any chocolate biscuits) and she happily shares her home with bats.
The welcomes and introduction revealed a diverse group from Limerick birdwatch, Ballyhoura Beo, Living limerick, tidy towns, my counterpart for the leader who writes up the hospital notes, and a mother whose daughter is mad about bats.
There are nine species of bats normally resident in Ireland, and we still have so much to learn about their distribution, population sizes and lives. Bat groups can play a major role in filling in the ecological gaps, by mapping the location of roosts, and forging partnerships in the community with organizations like schools and tidy towns. The eventual home of all this information, is the national biodiversity centre in Waterford. They are patiently creating maps for all species found in Limerick and Ireland.
You don’t need to be an expert to join in, but enthusiasm helps, and there a various monitoring schemes with training provided to suit all levels of interest. Committing just a few hours, and armed with a bat detector that picks up the bat voices, you will be introduced to a whole new fascinating world.
Helping bats means having a good insect population, and plants are the foundation in nature. A good selection of native and exotic flowers, from honeysuckle to night scented stock that can be grown in a window box will, all provide food for bats.
With the help of men’s shed bat boxes could be erected in the parks in Limerick and even some bat friendly plants included in the hanging baskets and planting schemes.
While all bats are important, Limerick is home to a special population of the EU protected lesser horseshoe bat. These are the only Irish species that hang upside down, and there is a colony in Curraghchase forest park. These bats don’t travel far, and they need suitable roosts, hedgerows and treelines to connect them to their relatives in Kerry, Clare and Galway. Linking up these isolated colonies is essential, for the species survival, and the group are considering a project that could benefit these bats (Tanya Limerick Bat Group)
There are many ways to help bats from joining bat conservation Ireland to becoming involved with the Limerick bat group. Every group needs a range of skills and experiences to thrive and check out limerick bat group Facebook for updates on meetings and events.
Comments/Questions to albert.nolan@rocketmail.com or 089 423052. Albert is also available to give walks/talks to schools, tidy towns, youth and community groups.1EFA4383-7367-4E88-AC24-3A035C9A2A03.jpego

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