When I worked as an ecological consultant, a lot of my work revolved around one group of species, the bats. Partly due to its legal protection, but also due to the way it has adapted to live alongside humans. In many cases even taking to using our residences as their homes, often without the homeowners awareness.
I love this about bats; they quietly go about their business slipping off into the night and returning before we leave our beds to go to work. Even in the most urban settings it is actually more common than not to hear one on the bat detector.
One such place, where the lay person may not expect to see bats, is in urban Liverpool. A public house wanted to extend and after visiting in the daytime and finding the loft voids were inaccessible, it was decided we would need to return at dusk to see if any bats emerged.
It was the end of July and 4 of us arrived around 7:30pm to set up, knowing that sunset was around 8:20 and bats can start to emerge from their roosts as early as 30 minutes before this time. The pub seemed empty but the curtains were closed, a few people were sat in the beer garden but it was quiet, as expected on a Wednesday night.
My other colleagues took up positions and I found a perfectly placed table in the beer garden which gave a vantage point of the gable end of the building.
The sun set and as it got to 8:30, no bats had emerged, but it was still early. All of a sudden the rear doors of the pub burst open. A steady stream of around 50 large men covered in tattoos, sloshing lager whilst hurriedly lighting cigarettes emerged. I stood up, bat detector in hand, as all their eyes gradually fixated on me; stood there with a small black box staring at the building. It’s hard not to look peculiar when doing a bat survey on a pub.
Then it clicked! It was Champions league qualifying night, it must be half time! I was usually quite switched on about these things but it was still August, football wasn’t really on my radar yet.
I could hear them whispering and looking at me. I can’t move though, if I avert my gaze from the building for even a split second I could miss a bat.
“What are you doing mate?!” a large man who could probably crush me in one hand shouts my way.
I’m about 30m away, am I really going to shout this to a crowd of drunk football fans?
“I’m doing a bat survey!” I reply, trying to make it sound manly, all the while not taking my eyes off the building.
There is a pause of a few seconds and then suddenly an eruption of laughter…..
About 10 of them scurried down and stood right beside me, gazing back towards the pub.
One announces “Bats!…. in a pub? You’re having a laugh right? Rats maybe, definitely a few batty people! But I’ve never seen a bat here in my life.”
I was about to launch into a rant about how bats do use buildings of this age and structure and with the gardens around…..why not. When suddenly right in front of these 10 burly men a bat drops out from behind a hanging tile and flies along a hedgerow right beside us and off into gardens to the south.
The mocking fell silent for a few seconds before all 10 of the men started cheering as if Liverpool had just scored a screamer into the top corner. A second bat quickly followed, then another and another. A figure popped out from the pub doors and shouted:
“The second half’s startin’!”
But they didn’t move, somehow this natural event was more interesting than football……and in Liverpool, that is saying something!
I was suddenly being asked endless questions about bats which I answered happily. Gone was the hostility and suddenly there was intrigue and fascination. 5 bats emerged in total and the men, almost reluctantly, walked back into the pub to catch what little was left of the football.
The building works didn’t go ahead in the end, I don’t know why, but I did speak to the landlady a few weeks later and she told me that everyone loves the bat residents and they’ve gathered a bit of a cult following amongst the pub’s regulars.
“Sometimes people will be sat in the garden around sunset and someone will spot a bat appear and a cheer will go up around the garden.”
Some people are won over by the wonder of wildlife at the most unexpected moments.
About the Entry
After completing a degree in environmental science, I have been an ecologist for 7 years. I currently work with farmers and other landowners to help them restore land for long term conservation in the UK. During these years I have grown frustrated by an increasing number of people complaining about environmental issues but taking no or very little action. I’m now a firm believer that to tackle these environmental problems we must act in a more disruptive way, whether that be through new technologies, new ways of thinking and most importantly with open minds…..and hence why I started my blog and podcast.
- Site name | The Disruptive Environmentalist
- Site URL | www.disruptiveenvironmentalist.com
- Twitter | @environment_rob
- Why should someone visit your site? The Disruptive Environmentalist is a blog and podcast which aims to seek out examples of new solutions to old environmental problems. This could be through new innovations, new techniques or simply through different perspectives. In a time where we need to act quickly the website aims is to inspire direct action in readers through real life stories, but also to challenge how we look at these challenging issues.
- Entry Title | Liverpool’s Hidden Nightlife
- Entry Number | 70
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