Bat(full) Nights

Sunset in Ikaria | Photograph by Talita Bateman

Sunset in Ikaria | Photograph by Talita Bateman

The thing about searching for reptiles and amphibians is that you always come across other wildlife. Some of the species you find, such as dragonflies, are fairly easy to photograph. Others, such as birds of prey, tend to be a little harder if you don't have the correct equipment.

This usually doesn't bother me too much. Most of the time, I'm happy with just being able to see them in the flesh, albeit from a distance. Other times, I wish I had all the equipment necessary to be able to capture certain moments - or better yet, some species.

Most people will have certain favourite 'animals' that they admire. For some, such as a friend of mine, it's sharks. For others, such as myself, it's pretty much anything ectothermic. However, when it comes to mammals, I too have a favourite - bats. I get this giddy feeling whenever I even get a hint of one and I can't even describe the level of excitement when I actually see one live. I also always think to myself how I wish I could photograph them to capture that memory. And this is exactly how I feel every sunset in Ikaria. As it is, I'm left with the only other thing I could possibly do given my situation - I start researching them.

Photograph by  Castle Hill Ecology

Photograph by Castle Hill Ecology

Most sources, especially those from ecotourism websites that talk about the flora and fauna of Ikaria, mention that three species of bats can be found on the island and that they are all protected. Although I suppose that the low number of species could be entirely plausible, the sources these articles cite are fairly old. While trying to locate more recent surveys, I came across the Castle Hill Ecology website that mentioned a bat research survey led by Greena Ecological Consultancy across different Greek Islands. The one in Ikaria was carried out in September 2014 and they reported that during the survey, they could identify at least 12 different species of bats. These are:

COMMON NAME

Common Pipistrelle
Kuhl’s Pipistrelle
Savi’s Pipistrelle
European Free-tailed
Schreiber’s
Greater Horseshoe
Lesser Horseshoe
Blasius’ Horseshoe
Mehely’s Horseshoe
Geoffroy’s bat
Serotine
Lesser Mouse-eared

LATIN NAME

Pipistrellus pipistrellus
Pipistrellus kuhlii
Hypsugo savii
Tadarida teniotis
Miniopterus schreibersii
Rhinolophus ferrumequinum
Rhinolophus hipposideros
Rhinolophus blasii
Rhinolophus mehelyi
Myotis emarginatus
Eptesicus serotinus
Myotis blythii

Photograph by  Castle Hill Ecology

Photograph by Castle Hill Ecology

To identify the different species, a combination of different surveying methods were used but they were essentially made up of trappings and sound recordings. It is no surprise that Ikaria would host such a variety of species. The island offers an ideal habitat with plenty of prey, sea caves, old mines, flowing streams and natural pools. As is expected, however, it also has some of the usual urban threats as well as a particular threat of the feline variety - cats. Like many other places in Greece, Ikaria has its fair share of cats. These tend to congregate near human settlements and so bats that reside near these areas can suffer and unfortunately become cat toys.

Nevertheless, the results of the survey were very encouraging and if I had the correct equipment to set up a time-lapse video during sundown, I would be able to share just how amazing these little guys are when hunting. Oh well, perhaps another trip to Ikaria is in order ;)