Bats. They often get a bad press, these creatures of the night. But maybe it's about time we should embrace them (though not literally, you understand). Perhaps we should take a closer look at these webbed wonders of the natural world - they've been around 50 million years after all, so they must be doing something right.
London is home to at least six different species of bat, with wingspans from 19cm up to a flapping great 40cm. Their most common flying time is just after sunset, when they go out in search of food.
Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind. However, for navigation they use a system known as echolocation whereby they emit a high-pitched noise from their mouth or through their nostrils. They use the echo of this noise to locate objects such as insects – yes, it's that accurate. And did you know that baby bats are known as pups? See, they're already starting to sound cute.
So how about learning a little bit more about our nocturnal neighbours by going on a bat walk organised by the London Bat Group. The London Bat Group exists to protect and conserve bats as well as to educate the public about exactly what they are and how they live. The group, consisting entirely of volunteers, is keen to educate the public and raise awareness about bats, as some species are suffering dwindling numbers and even face extinction.
The bat walks (various prices, though some are free) are intriguing night-time excursions where expert guides take groups to visit known communities of bats. Walks take place in locations such as Marble Hill Park, Regent's Park, Primrose Hill, and Beckenham Place Park, though should you feel like taking a look for yourself, the group's website has an excellent list of areas where bats abound.
There are even Big Batty Walks at the London Wetland Centre, which claims to be one of the best places in the capital for bat watching. The Big Batty Walk costs £10, with various dates available.
The places for all walks are carefully researched to ensure your safety and enjoyment, and according to the group, the walks are growing in popularity.