Activity patterns of greater horseshoe bats Rhinolophus ferrumequinum were investigated at caves in Cheddar (south-west England) during the hibernation season. An ultrasound detector and datalogger were used to monitor and record the number of echolocation calls in a single cave. Activity of R. ferrumequinum remained largely nocturnal throughout winter, and the mean time of activity over 24 h was 88 to 369 min after sunset. There was an increase in diurnal activity from late May to early June, probably because bats remained active after foraging at dawn towards the end of the hibernation season. Visits to the cave did not increase bat activity. Cave air temperature reflected external climatic temperature, although there was variation in cave temperature and its range within and among caves. Individual R. ferrumequinum are usually dispersed in caves in regions where temperature fluctuations correlate with climatic variations in temperature. There was a positive correlation between the number of daily bat passes monitored by the bat detector and datalogger (= daily activity) and cave temperature. Nocturnal activity may be sometimes associated with winter feeding. Neither date nor barometric pressure had a significant effect on daily activity. Activity patterns largely reflected the findings from individual R. ferrumequinum studied by telemetry (Park, 1998), in that bat activity increased with cave and climatic temperatures, and the temporal pattern of activity remained consistently nocturnal throughout winter, starting at dusk.
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