Bats, of course, are the mascot mammal for cavers worldwide. They don’t have to be cave-dwelling bats to qualify, they just have to be themselves, one of the most beneficial mammals on the planet. What with their phenomenal consumption of insects and their pollination of plants and trees, bats render us all an enormous service.
But in many parts of the world bats are sorely misunderstood, mistreated, and maligned. One need only go to the section on this Website, Rock Music, and click on bat songs, to hear how bad it can get for bats and how the popular notions about bats are hugely distorted.
This needs to change and thanks to a few organizations scattered around North America and Europe progress is slowly being made to bring bats out of the Dark Ages. One of the first and most famous is the Bat Conservation International in Austin, Texas, which was founded by Merlin Tuttle in 1982. Go to the BCI site and learn more. In England there is Bat Conservation Trust, which was founded in 1991. Then on the European continent there is Eurobats, which was first established in Bonn, Germany in 1995. The Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats came into force in 1994 and until now a total of 35 out of 63 range states have acceded to the Agreement. Go to the Eurobats site and learn more.
Notice, it is altogether fitting that these sounds of bats and cave-dwelling birds should come under the heading of “spoken word” as these animal sounds are the characteristic language of each of these species.
The first known bat recording ever released was one of the Roussette bats (Epomops franqueti) recorded at night in the vicinity of Lastourville in Gabon around 1958. Fittingly enough, this recording was made in the field by the world-famous Swiss biospeleologist, Pierre Strinati.
However the great pioneers in the field of bat recordings were the British. In 1969 the BBC Wildlife Series put out an album, British Mammals and Amphibians, where six tracks of bat sounds were recorded by Eric Simms, John Hooper, & Thomas W. Rudd. At that time John Hooper was doing many significant studies on horseshoe bats in Devon. This LP was followed up by a Swedish album, A Field Guide to Mammal Voices of Europe, which used three cuts by Eric Simms from the BBC LP plus four new bat recordings made by Hans Lütgens in West Germany and Thomas R. Rudd in Westmoreland.
In the 1990s the French and then in the beginning of the 21st Century the Belgians and the Germans all did several noteworthy recordings of European bats.
There are also some amazing audio guides to bat identification that provide the sounds of different bats, which can be used to distinguish them in the field. One British CD can be used in conjunction with a special apparatus to quickly identify any British bat in the field.
The American recordings for the most part are simply one or two tracks on albums devoted to horror sounds for Halloween and some of these chittering bat sounds might well have been faked with a synthesizer.
Should you want to read the very best that has been written in English about bats try these two classics: Glover Morrill Allen’s Bats, and Russell Peterson’s Silently, by Night, and in French the beautiful treatise by Denise Tupinier, La Chauve-souris et l’homme, that covers all the cultural and artistic aspects concerning bats the world over. The hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) here eying the moth in flight is an illustration by Russell Peterson and he commented that it “is our largest [wingspread up to 16 inches] and certainly America’s most beautiful bat…. I will venture to call it the ‘mink’ among bats.” (Peterson 1964)
Several cavers collect bat-related items and among them are many woman cavers, which may sound surprising to all those out there who still believe the old wives’ tale that women are necessarily scared of bats because they are sold on the falsehood that bats get in woman’s hair. In 1990, a French caver, Nicky Boullier, of the Spéléo Club de Paris, took her collection of 125 bat objects to Istanbul where she did a public exhibition in a gallery there. The noted cave bookseller in the United States, Emily Davis, of Speleobooks, has a huge collection of bat-related objects and she sells many of them at her remarkable store online.
Other fascinating flying creatures that hang out in caves are the South American oilbirds, the guacharo birds from Venezuela and Peru. We have here one notable recording of the echo-location sounds of these birds in the Cueva de las Lechuzas in Peru. There are also the cave swiftlets in Borneo and the cave swallows in Jamaica.
Many of the entries here will obviously duplicate entries in the section, Recordings in Natural Caves, for the simple reason that most of these cave bat and bird recordings were made in caves.
Each country has been listed alphabetically. And each entry for that country was given a code number – starting with “DOC-RBB” meaning documentary recordings of bats and birds followed by the country code established by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization), based on lists published by the United Nations.
The list of abbreviations used for each entry will be found in the “Abbreviations” tab on the bottom left.