The bats of the Lough
The area of The Lough, in Cork City, is known to be home to five of the ten known Irish bat species. These include; common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared, Leisler’s and Daubenton’s bats.
The Lough offers an ideal oasis within an urban area for local bats both for foraging and drinking and it is used by bats as part of their normal activities. For instance, brown long-eared bats use the surrounding trees as feeding perches in which they can consume oversize prey like large moths which they catch in the air and more commonly by 'gleaning' them from foliage. Signs of this activity can be sometimes seen as piles of bat droppings mixed with moth wings.
Daubenton’s bat can be seen hunting very close to the surface of The Lough’s waters. This species behaves like a little hovercraft, carefully skimming the surface as it seeks prey that has fallen in or is emerging from the water. This it gaffs with its oversize back feet and quickly transfers it to its mouth.
The two pipistrelle species are to be seen flying erratically at head height around and over The Lough. These amazingly acrobatic flyers are after the smallest prey, namely midges and gnats which they consume in enormous quantities. These bats live in the surrounding houses during the summer months.
The Leisler’s bat is the largest bat in Ireland and it is built for speed with long, narrow wings. It can sometimes be seen passing over The Lough area in the early evening, even before sundown. It is one of the rarest bat species in Europe and, on the continent, is known as the ‘Irish bat’ as we are lucky enough to have the highest population of this species of any country in the world!
It is known that bat populations across Europe have fallen dramatically in recent years. Being highly specialised animals, bats serve as biological indicators and are often amongst the first animal species to show signs of population change due to the activities of man. Destruction of roosts and foraging areas are the two prime reasons for the decline of Ireland's bat species. Intolerance and fear are also detrimental to the survival of our bat species.
Old myths of bats being blind, getting caught in hair, living in belfries or being flying mice are untrue. In fact, bats are more closely related to people than to mice! They only have a single baby each year and, although the average lifespan is four to five years, they can live to 40 years or beyond. They also perform a good turn by consuming large amounts of insects. In fact, the smallest Irish species, the soprano pipistrelle, which weighs in at only 3.5g to 8.5g, can eat up to 3,500 midges every summer night!
Due to their decline, all bat species are protected by the Wildlife Act 1976 and 2000 and it is an offence to wilfully disturb these beneficial animals.