The common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) – found up and down the Quaggy, even in Lewisham town centre. With wings folded it fits into a matchbox.

QWAG’s Annual Walk took place on Friday 10th September (the 17th Walk, we think). We were back again in Sucliffe Park. But with a difference – this time the sun was setting, the dusk descending. We were looking for bats. Or rather listening out for their high frequency hunting calls. So high in fact that special electonic detectors are needed to hear them. In anticipation, we’d rustled up 12 such devises (10 courtesy of the Bat Conservation Trust) – enough to allow all 27 in the party, to get to use one.

Shortly after sunset, detectors began to clatter – the first bats were duly arriving. Predominating over the lake – soprano pipistrelles. Later, along the avenues and the hedgerow bordering the running track, the common variety. When in flight it is impossible to distinguish one from the other. But common pipistrelles are loud and clear at around 45kH, the higher pitched soprano at 55kH. Listening in to bats is addictive – lots of people immediately wanted their own detectors.

Bats have had a hard time these last 50 years, with destroyed roosts, loss and fragmentation of habitats and evermore artificial lighting. Protecting surviving populations along the Quaggy and helping recovery is one of QWAG’s current campaigns. We’ve intervened on their behalf in three recent planning applications and are seeking to upgrade the natural environment where ever possible.

To raise bats’ profile in local communities, we’re now part of the Bat Conservation Trust’s Green City Bat Project – one of (currently) 43 groups scattered across London. Bat walks are particularly useful in this respect, especially with a bat expert on hand – warm thanks to Jason Cunningham of the London Bat Group for acting as our guide. Jason thinks Sutcliffe Park’s lake, in time, should attract Daubenton bats – they’re specialist open-water hunters. Maybe next year…

Make a splash without getting wet!