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21 October 2004 1545 BST
Grap: Norfolk's bat man is batty about bats

Pipistrelle bat - one of many bats that can be found in Norfolk

Did you know that there are as many as 16 different types of bats in the UK and that 13 of them can be found in Norfolk?

John Goldsmith is our local bat expert and here he writes about what it's like to be bat man!

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CBBC Homepage
Norfolk Bat Group
Norfolk Wildlife Trust

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Have you seen any bats in your garden? If so we'd love to hear your bat stories!

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Bats have three main needs to carry on living:

A safe place to roost during the daytime and bring up their young.
  Access to feeding areas that will have a supply of insects throughout the spring, summer and autumn.
  A safe, cool and damp place to hibernate between October and March, for six months of the year.
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For as long as I can remember I have been interested in wildlife and all kinds of animals and plants.

Graphic: bats

I can remember being asked by my teacher at junior school about birds, so I think the teachers already knew I liked wildlife. I even kept caterpillars and toads when I was a kid!

Pic: John Goldsmith
Bat man John Goldsmith

Most children are fascinated with animals, but grown ups don't always encourage them to learn about wildlife.

It wasn't until I was at high school that I got help from my teachers, when my biology teachers helped me learn a thing or too. It all seems so long ago now!

Graphic: bats

I used to work at Norwich Castle for over 30 years - I liked the dungeons best. They were really spooky and looked as though they should have bats living in them!

But only a few bats would come inside the dungeons in the castle. It was usually in the autumn when they needed somewhere to hibernate.

Now I am based at the Gressenhall Rural Life Museum where Long-eared bats live in the roof of the building above where I work!

What's it like being bat man?

Graphic: bats

It means being interested in these tiny flying creatures and wanting to learn as much as possible about them. I spend time looking at how we can help protect them.

Pic: Brown long-eared bat by Kevin Simmonds
There are lots of Brown Long-eared bats in Norfolk
Read 10 cool facts about
bats here

It's very important that any work we do with them doesn't harm them in any way. So we have to make sure we don't upset them or damage their homes.

Because it's so important to look after the bats, you need a licence to work with them.

The first rule of being bat man is that the bats always come first!

Because the number of bats in East Anglia is falling, my job to keep these creatures part of our wildlife is a very important one. I love my job!

What does the job of bat man involve?

Graphic: bats

My real job is with the Norfolk Biological Records Centre where we keep records of all kinds of wildlife that live in Norfolk.

We also work very closely with other wildlife groups in the county. This means that recording the number of bats is only a tiny part of my day-to-day job.

But for more than 30 years, at weekends and evenings, I have gone out with other people looking for bats and signs of where they have been.

Pic: Daubenton bat colony by John Golds
Daubenton bat colony

It's my hobby to be a bat man during this time finding out the habits, likes and dislikes of our bats.

We have a bat group in Norfolk and the members of this group get involved with bat conservation activities such as making bat boxes, visiting people who have bats in their homes and digging out some of the underground tunnels that bats may want to hibernate in.

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What can I do to help bats?

There are lots of small things that you can do to help bats.

Read and learn as much about them as possible and tell your friends and teachers what you know. There are up to 1000 types of bats on our planet!

Ask if anyone in your area has them living in their house. If you find some bats, watch them come out and try and count them. It's best to do this during the summer.

Graphic: bats

Keep a diary of when you see them flying in your garden and make a note of when you saw them. How early in the year did you see it? When was the last bat you saw before hibernation?

Make some bat boxes and put them up on trees. You can ask for help from your local wildlife trust.

If you have bats visiting your garden, try to get your parents to help you grow plants that will attract moths and other insects as this will help feed the bats.

Read more:10 cool facts about bats »

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