Love them or fear them, bats are an integral and very important part of our ecosystem. Fourteen species are known from our county, one or two having not been recorded for a while, but the majority being widespread residents and breeders.

The most familiar of these will be the pipistrelle, the small bat that flitters around your garden at dusk seeking night flying insects on which to dine. And here’s a fact for you: just one of these miraculous flying mammals will feast on up to 3,000 midges, ‘mossies’ and moths in a single night!

Barbastelle bat, photo by Christoph Robiller

Bats are harmless, amazingly well adapted to their nocturnal life, very caring parents and extremely useful creatures. But sadly many species are declining and in our modern world of intensive farming  and pesticides , housing estates, busy roads and urban and industrial development, are increasingly dependent upon areas of undisturbed, insect-rich, wild space to feed, rest and breed.

Our commons, being less intensively managed and relatively undisturbed can be perfect for bats. The mix of habitats on many Norfolk commons, from ponds to wildflower-rich grasslands, provide abundant moths and other insects for bats to feed on. Veteran and pollard trees offer roost or even breeding sites and on windy nights scrub and hedgerows provide just the right sheltered conditions where bats can still hunt and find food. Bats of several species will take advantage of the bounty that our commons provide and also use nearby old buildings such as barns or churches for roosting and nursery sites.

We know commons are very important places for bats but there is quite a bit we don’t know about their distribution.  

Pipistrelle bat, photo by Elizabeth Dack

Have you ever tried looking for bats with a bat detector? It’s great fun and reveals a whole new world otherwise hidden by darkness. Equipment to facilitate this can be bought online, but organisations like Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Norwich Bat Group run many events around the county enabling you to find out more about these amazing creatures.

You can even become involved yourself by taking part in the Norfolk Bat Survey and borrow bat detecting equipment to survey your local patch.

Why not survey your local common? You will be pleasantly surprised and truly delighted with what you find. You can even make it a community event, showing people how valuable commons really are for wildlife.
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