The Longford bat picnic, hosted by local members of Bat Conservation Ireland and Irish Wildlife Trust, took place in Lanesboro on Wednesday, April 16.
Led by Aine and Andrew Fenner from Ballymahon, the event, which was the first of its kind in Ireland, aimed to educate children on Irish bats.
Speaking to the Leader, Aine explained how the night came about; “We were chatting over a cup of tea to a very active Bat Conservation Ireland volunteer from Kildare called Anna Collins, who suggested the idea based on her experiences with traditional bat walks. She found a number of times that when she would bring a group of children on a traditional bat walk, they would hear no bats during the walk but as soon as the cars were driving out of the car park lots of bats would come out. Anna felt that the noise scared the bats away and thought it would be better if the children stayed in one spot and then the bats might come to them. The idea for a bat picnic developed from there.”
A group of 16 scouts, 3 young guests and accompanying adults met at 8pm near the Commons Walk in Lanesboro. Aine said, “Lanesboro was the perfect spot to try out the bat picnic idea as the quarry provided shelter for the children while having their picnic. We knew there were bats in and around the Commons area so we were confident they would appear.”
Aged between six and eight, all the children brought a small picnic and a flash lamp. Once they had eaten they played educational bat-themed games to heighten their knowledge of the creatures.
“We talked a little about bats in Ireland and Andrew demonstrated by playing sounds at different frequencies, how the children could hear some of the lower frequency sounds that the bats make,” Aine explained. “Most adults can’t hear bats at low frequencies as our hearing deteriorates with age. We then played “Bat Bingo”. Each of the children picked a card numbered from one to 10 and each card corresponded to an Irish bat, as we have 10 bats. When we called out the number, the children told us something they knew about their chosen bat from looking at the sheet. At that stage the bats were flying, so we listened to the bats on the bat detector and watched them flying around the trees.”
While this particular event is a first, there are a multitude of related ones in the area. “The Irish Wildlife Trust in Longford/Westmeath try to run an event approximately once a month,” Aine continued. “The next event is a moth morning in Westmeath in May and there will be a wildlife walk near Abbeylara in June.”
Bat Conservation Ireland also hold bat walks and training days. Full details about the events are available on the groups’ Facebook pages.