Shining a light on bats.
The sun had been out all day and in the dwindling light I met up with Kilkenny tidy towns for a bat walk. Our meeting place was in front of the Hurling Statue, with the high walls of the castle above us and the broad sweep of the River Nore inviting us to discover nature. On first view this looked like an excellent habitat to discover bats.
The walk is a well-used meeting point for the community. A few people were heading off on an evening stroll, while kids played on their skateboards while under the watching eye of their parents.
Soon a small and socially distanced group has assembled. Two ladies arrived late as Johns Street was closed and they had to take a longer route.
We started off with an introduction to bats. Bats are mammals like us. They are warm blooded and give birth to live young that are fed on milk. Bats are often found in our houses and one of the main reasons for this is the massive changes in our landscape.
In other parts of Europe bats use old trees with natural cavities and these are rare in Ireland. Also a lot of older buildings that are natural bat roosts have been renovated so use our attics instead. One man commented that he had bats in his attic years ago but they moved on of their own accord. Attics are especially important as maternity roosts where the females will have their one pup.
Bats have a very slow rate of reproduction and this means that it takes years for the population to build up. Bats mate in the autumn, but the female can delay fertilisation till spring. With plenty of insects around she can produce milk for her pup. Bats can eat up to 3500 insects each night and moths, mayflies and beetles are also caught.
Bats are fully protected by Irish and European law and it is illegal to disturb their maternity and roosting places. If you do need to carry out works, consult with the local wildlife ranger and they can offer sensible and practical advice on how the works can be carried out.
There are many myths around bats and they are not flying mice and don’t fly into your hair. When we are out walking we radiate heat from our head and also breathe out Carbon dioxide. This attracts insects and the bats fly around us trying to catch them.
Before we started the walk I demonstrated how to use a bat detector. This converts the normally inaudible calls of a bat, into a sound that we can hear and with a bit of experience identify the specie of bat. Thanks to Kilkenny Co.Co for providing additional detectors and this meant there was one for everyone in the group.
This is a tense moment for me as bats on occasion have not performed for a group. Thankfully we were blessed and it was not long before we heard the first of many bats. When bats first emerge they are starving and there is also loads of banter as they discuss where the best feed spots are.
The calls of the Common pipistrelle came through very clearly and everyone was really excited to hear the bats. Occasional we saw a bat and many commented that they will never view the walk in the same way again, after experiencing the thrills of bat watching. After a few minutes the activity level dropped off and this is natural, as bats disperse to wider feeding grounds.
While we waited we discussed the best place to put up a bat box. Boxes should be located at least four meters of the ground with no obstructing branches that will hinder the bats flying in. While birds have the ability to fly straight out of a box, bats have to drop down making them vulnerable to attack by cats. Other dangers is the long term Impact of powerful lighting that drives away bats. This is especially true on old bridges and churches and who is going to be looking at them at 3am. Thankfully the canal walk is well balanced in terms of lighting. Habitat loss like the removal of hedgerows destroys the bats green highways.
Bats are not blind and there eyesight is as good as ours during the night. Bats use echolocation to build up a picture of the night-time landscape. This allows then to hunt tiny flies and larger moths in the pitch dark. But insects like moths are not passive prey and each year an evolutionary arms race goes out in our gardens and towns. Bats can live for up to 30 years and with age they become more experienced hunters. Moths defences are constantly been upgraded. The hairs on the bodies of some species can sense the echolocation calls of the bats. The moth can then drop like a stone to the ground to escape or distort the bats signal. The worrying decline in insect populations is a major concern for the future health of bats. Leisers bats are Ireland’s biggest species and we did hear the social and mating calls of the males in the trees above the heads. These were located near the love seats built into the walls long the canal walk for human occupation.
On the way back we examined the plant community growing on the walls. Navelwort, Pellitory of the wall and ivy leaved toadflax all support wildlife. Dog rose, ash, Horse chestnut and lime trees lined the path and can be home to roosting bats especially if they are covered in ivy. Bats are interesting part of Kilkenny City wildlife and I really enjoyed discovering them on the walk.
Comments/Questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or 089 4230502. Albert is also available to give walks/talks to schools, tidy towns, youth and community groups.
Congratulation to all on the hard work undertaken by the National Enterprise Town Award committee who in turn were supported by many organisations and volunteers from through out our City, this included the Kilkenny PPN (Kilkenny Public Participation Network) and Keep Kilkenny Beautiful.
This is a fantastic achievement for Kilkenny, there were over 70 Communities in the running, Kilkenny were victorious in winning the overall prize at the Bank of Ireland National Enterprise Town Awards 2019 including a cash prize of €33,000.
This win is indicative of the hard work and dedication of many businesses and enterprises throughout the city but also our community spirit which is at the heart of everything we do. It is important that local enterprises and community groups are supported in their efforts to create jobs and a sustainable future for their communities.
Pictured representing Kilkenny at the 2019 Bank of Ireland National Enterprise Town Awards are Noel Sherry, Mary O’Hanlon, Maurice O’Connor (PPN Secretariat and Community Radio), Deirdre Dunne, Mayor Martin Brett, Marion Acreman, Colette Byrne, Fiona Deegan, Minister John Paul Phelan, John Hurley, Peter Chap Cleere, Cllr Deirdre Cullen, Deirdre Shine, Bank of Ireland, JJ Keyes, Head of Kilkenny, Bank of Ireland
Congratulations to Glaslough Co Monaghan on their winning of the overall National Tidy Towns award 2019 with 346. Congratulations also to Terryglass Co Tipperary on their south east Regional Award on 344 points.
Kilkenny City received a total of 342 points, a rise at five points on our 2018 score. We were 2nd under category H large urban centre award.
In addition to receiving the County Award and a Gold medal, Kilkenny City is honoured to have also received a runner-up award under the sustainable development award category for the River Nore walk and also the All Ireland Pollinator Plan local authority pollinator award under the large town category for the south-east of Ireland.
Click here for a link to the Kilkenny city Tidy Towns report for 2019. This is one of the most comprehensive reports received many years for our city. We are currently starting to analyse the report which sets out many helpful comments, recommendations and guidance in relation to the future development of our City.
The Kilkenny Sub-Aqua Club Search & Rescue Unit joined with the Kilkenny Motor Club Show on last Sunday to host the annual Vintage and Classic Motor Show /field day in Kilkenny. Keeping Kilkenny Clean was part of the aims with a picker team also working throughout the event. A great day was had by all.