Creswell Crags Bats

Why are some of our caves closed to the public during winter?

Every winter Creswell Heritage Trust restrict public access to our caves so that our rare bats have a safe environment to roost. We work alongside a number of organisations which monitor our bats and record the number of species. We also offer Bat Evenings at certain times during the year when the public can learn about the varied species.

Bats are the world’s only true flying mammal and there are over one thousand species of bat world-wide, the majority of these feeding on fruit or insects.  We currently have eighteen species resident in Britain.  All species of bat can be found in the southern counties but the variety of species diminishes the further north you travel, we currently have nine species bat of resident in the cave network, buildings and surrounding woodland.

Fossilised remains of bats have been found in the spoil from excavations carried out in the gorge and there is evidence that all the species resident in Britain today have at sometime lived in the natural rock features and caves here at Creswell.

The gorge is a superb natural habitat for bats offering trees and caves for roosting in throughout the year and the diversity of plant life as well as the expanse of water support a wide variety of insects on which the bats feed.

Bats at the Crags

Pipistrelle Bats:
Bandit/Common (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)
Soprano (Pipistrellus pygmaeus)

These are the smallest and most common species of bat in Britain and will eat an estimated 3000-3500 midges in one nights feed. Until the early 1990’s they were classed as one species but following more in depth scientific studies they were eventually separated into two species.  They can be seen flying above the pond and in the woodland shortly after sunset. Their flight pattern and feeding habits are the same but they differ by their colour and echo-location frequency.

The Bandit Pipistrelle or common pipistrelle is not as prevalent in the gorge as it close relation, it echo-locates at 45kz and is dark brown in appearance with a fleshy appearance to the nasal area giving the impression it is wearing a mask, hence the name.

The Soprano/Pygmy Pipistrelle echo-locates at 55kh and is light brown in appearance with a fluffier nasal area than the bandit Pipistrelle. This species tends to congregate in larger roosts than the common Pip and there is a nursery colony situated in the area with approximately 200 – 250 bats present during the summer months.

Brown Long-eared (Plecotus auritus)

This is the second most common species in Britain and is found roosting in the caves all year round with a few using the visitor centre in the as a roost in the summer.  The Brown Long-eared Bat can often be seen flying beneath the canopy of the trees in the wooded areas and prefers a diet of moths.  It has a very large wing area which gives it the ability to hover above the foliage if necessary to pick off its prey.

Daubentons Bat (Myotis daubentonii)

This bat is found in the caves and rock crevices of the gorge throughout the year.  This species does not usually come out to feed until it is very dark, making it very difficult to see flying around the gorge.  It feeds over the pond flying at approximately 15cm. above the surface of the water as it uses its extremely large feet to rake off the insects as they emerge.

Natterers Bat (Myotis nattereri)

This species is another species found roosting in the caves throughout the year and can also be seen feeding above the pond.  This bat normally flies at head height over the water and veering into the trees.  The Natterers is not a common species but small colonies are found regularly within the Nottinghamshire area and regularly roost in farm buildings.

Whiskered Bat (Myotis mystacinus)

The Whiskered bat is rarely found roosting in the caves at Creswell but evidence is found and one individual was rescued from Robin Hoods cave many years ago.  Apart from caves this bat also likes to roost in old houses without roofing felt particularly under ridge tiles.  While being very similar in size to the Pipistrelle it can be distinguished by its darker fur with white tips, and its flight pattern is not as erratic as the ‘pip’.  There is evidence of this species roosting around the new Visitor Centre.