Greater Horseshoe Bat
Giclee 'OPEN EDITION' Prints
Aprox. Size: 297mm x 360mm
Original Painting Medium: Pen and Ink
Scientific Name: Rhinolophus Ferrumequinum
Region: United Kingdom
Bats are intriguing little creatures and are a delight to watch as they swoop, twist and turn in pursuit of gnats, moths and other insects. Often only seen at night they are considered somewhat mysterious and to some people, even frightening.
Nothing could be further from the truth though, bats have llittle furry bodies, are cute, come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and are an invaluable asset to us.
Bats are the only mammals capable of powered flight and some are major predators of night-flying insects. All British bats feed on insects and a pipistrelle bat, weighing only 5 grams, can catch as many as 3,000 insects during one night. Other bats feed on fruit or nectar and in so doing pollinate flowers and disperse seeds in a variety of habitats from rain forests to deserts. For all these reasons I was keen to portray a bat and using pen and ink - portrayed this Greater Horseshoe Bat chasing a moth.
After the last Ice Age, bats were among the first mammals to recolonize the British Isles. As forests developed, roosts were soon established in hollow trees and the bats would patrol the woodland clearings at dusk and at night to hunt for flying insects. As the forests were felled by man, many bats moved into man-made habitations. Some species are still dependent on hollows in trees for their roosts but many species prefer the luxury of a well insulated, clean, draught-free wall cavity or loft in a modern house.
Emitting ultrasonic squeaks, inaudible to the human ear, insect eating bats have evolved a kind of radar to navigate in darkness and locate prey. The pattern of reflected squeaks indicates the size of the prey and its distance. Moths, beetles, gnats, crickets, flies and spiders make up their diet. Nature has given some moths a fighting chance; as they are able to detect bat ultra sounds and immediatley drop to the ground.
Of the sixteen species of bat in the British Isles, the most widespread and the smallest is the pipistrelle, Pipistrellus pipistrellus, length 35-45mm and weight 3-8 grams. When born, the pink almost completely naked and blind youngster is hardly bigger than a bee. One of the largest is the noctule bat, Nyctalus noctula, length 60-82 mm and weight 18-40 gm. It often emerges before dusk and is a fast flyer often seen well above tree top level.
The greater horseshoe, is one of the larger bats and can be distinguished by the presence of a complex horseshoe-shaped noseleaf which is related to their particular type of echolocation system. When roosting they hang free with the wings almost enfolding their body and will emerge from the roost, flying low. Hibernating sites such as caves and mine tunnels are used from September to May. Barns and attics are preferred for summer roosts. A female greater horseshoe bat is not sexually mature until 3-4 years of age and the male at 2-3 years of age. Mating normally takes place in the autumn, and the maternity colonies begin to gather after hibernation in mid May. The greater horseshoe bat has declined by over 90% in the last 100 years, it is rare in Britain and now confined to south-west England and South Wales.
Many places are important to our bats as food supplies. These include ponds, marshy meadows, old pastures, trees and continuous hedges linking summer roosts to feeding areas. For hibernating, underground crevices, hollows in trees and stumps are also important. With the loss of suitable trees for roosting, intensive agricultural practices resulting in the loss of suitable feeding habitats and the use of fungicides and insecticides for the treatment of roof and floor timbers, the future of the fourteen species of British bat is in the balance.
The greater mouse eared bat last seen in Sussex in 1985 was the first mammal to be declared officially extinct in Britain since the wolf.
During the summer months, I am involved in 'bat counts' organised by the Bat Conservation Trust. Surveys by volunteers throughout the U.K help to ascertain and monitor the numbers of certain bat species in specific areas. I also work as a Bat Carer and look after orphaned and injured bats, returning them to the wild when they have recovered.