Last night I went bat watching with the South Lancashire bat group in Platt Fields Park, Manchester, to be filmed for a BBC documentary about Urban Wildlife.
It was for a series called Urban Jungle presented by a chap known as The Urban Birder, all about accessible wildlife encounters in urban environments. When I arrived at the park I noticed there were lots of flying insects buzzing over the pond. It’d been a close warm day so the chances of us seeing some bats seemed good I thought. The BBC were nowhere to be seen but some fellow bat group members were there and we speculated about what would be expected of us when the camera crew arrived?
I bought an ice-cream from the ice-cream van and the driver had to turn the van around so it was facing down hill as it was the end of the day and he was running out of milk in the Mr Whippy machine. A little boy on the climbing frame shouted: “I’m the champion!” and his friend shouted back: “No you’re not, you’re the idiotion”.
Steve Parker, our bat group’s person who knows loads about bats and is good at talking on camera arrived in the logo emblazoned van, followed shortly by the BBC.
The Urban Birder introduced himself to us all with a confidence and charm that assured me I will probably never be a television presenter. The crew were nice too and we all stood and chatted for a bit while they ate their no expense spared BBC funded plowman’s sandwich and chicken wrap from the local Tesco Express.
Then Steve did his thing, talking about bats and showing a captive Noctule called Nikki who can’t fly so lives with him permanently while The Urban Birder asked questions and we watched from a safe distance, occasionally taking photos and suddenly worrying that we were staring right into the camera from the background like ogling yocals. Then it was our turn, we got filmed walking to the pond and looking expectantly about with our bat detectors. It all seemed to be going OK but as Steve pointed out: “There’s someone missing”. No bats.
Panic over, there are loads of bats who arrived all of a sudden to everyone’s relief. This is Platt Fields, we needn’t have worried. They arrived in time for us all to get filmed with our bat detectors gurgling away like R2D2 with a head cold. Turns out the very bright camera lights are a great way of attracting all the flying insects in the park over turning us into a buffet for midges and in turn creating a convenient buffet for the bats who darted around us, Pips and Noctules supplying plenty of opportunity for genuine shots of us all enjoying the display.
We each got interviewed talking about how much we like bats and why it’s a good idea to come and look at them. I’ve only ever been filmed by a TV crew once before and they caught me by surprise on Deansgate in town and asked me what I thought about under cover policemen checking that bars weren’t serving alcohol to drunk people. This went better than that thankfully. Who knows if I’ll make the cut but it’ll be fun to watch when it’s on TV regardless. And it’s fun getting to walk about in your local park at night without worrying about being mugged. It was atmospheric with the sky fading from blue to red, reflected in the lake and our torches and camera lights illuminating beams of flying insects around us. At midnight we said our goodbyes and headed back to our lives outside the park and home to bed.
(Naomi, The Urban Birder & Abbie)