I have mentioned before that I am writing a Natural History of the town I live in, and a few nearby places within a short distance. A friend who we met ten years ago on a wildlifing trip of north-western Newfoundland and Labrador pointed out from some early draft pages that I don’t have much to say about bats.

And he was right.

Bats are seen on warm summer evenings, sometimes flitting (flitting being what bats do) above the trees surrounding our garden and are also in the arboretum and along the river banks. Sadly, it is hard to impossible to tell what species they are by sight and so I was going to write just something like “ … and there are also bats”.

The professionals usually identify bats on the wing by means of their echo-location calls and as these are pitched above the range of the human ear, especially one as defective as mine, this was obviously going to be a problem. Anyway to cut to the chase, Brian my Newfoundland friend also knows a pro-batter and between them they put me onto and made it possible to acquire a specialized piece of arcane electronics that plugs into my iPhone or iPad, collects those very high-pitched calls and by means of some algorithmic magic inside its case tells you what species are around.That’s the red thing on the right of the iPad.

This really is magic – but it’s early February and there won’t be any field trialling until the days are warmer and the bats are out feeding in the dusk between April and September.

I can’t tell you how keen I am to make a start … thanks Brian, for putting me on the batting road.

So, what bats might I be able to identify around here? There are eight species known to exist in Quebec which are:

– Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus)
– Eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii)
– Hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus)
– Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus)
– Northern long-eared myotis (Myotis septentrionalis)
– Red bat (Lasiurus borealis)
– Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagant)
– Tricoloured bat/Eastern pipistrelle (Perimyotis subflavus)

Of these the only one I know to have been confidently reported from Montreal Island recently is the Big Brown Bat which seems to like cities, towns, and rural areas. It is hardy and can winter in structures such as lofts of houses, but also barns, silos, and churches. It has even been found roosting in storm sewers, expansion joint spaces in concrete athletic stadiums, and so on … so a chance at least. (* The picture is from Wikipedia, not mine)

Just south of the island there are reports from Beauharnois of the Red Bat and the Silver-haired Bat is reported from Ottawa, so maybe here also. The Tricoloured bat/Eastern Pipistrelle is known from southern Quebec and Ontario and so could be a possibility, although it is quite rare even in those places.

Of course “not reported” often means not looked for rather than not here … and I am an optimist by nature.

Quite a few of these species are considered endangered and there is the problem with the often fatal fungal disease known as white nose syndrome.

Roll on April … plenty of mosquitoes here for the bats to dine on once it starts to warm up.