THEY are reputed to live among witches and blood-sucking vampires, while some even sing that they come out of hell. An old and dark railway track doesn’t evoke a less spooky scene either.

However, a group of wildlife enthusiasts headed out to the Corwen to Cynwyd railway line not to meet Meat Loaf, but to survey the bats that frequent it.

There are at least four species of the furry winged mammals that swoop above the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, including common and soprano pipistrelles, noctules, brown-long eared and daubentons.

The railway opened in 1866 as part of the Ruabon to Barmouth line which carried tourists to the west coast. It closed in 1968 and in the absence of human activity became an important wildlife habitat.

“Bats are known to use railway lines as commuting pathways through residential areas because they are less well-lit than streets and gardens,” AONB ranger Ellie Wainright said. “The Corwen-Cynwyd railway is a good site to see and hear bats for anyone who is interested.”

Ms Wainright led a bat survey with members of the public there between 9pm-11pm on June 27, as part of the AONB’s Natural for Health Project which aims to provide ‘on the doorstep’ health and well-being opportunities through outdoor activities.

They used bat detectors that track the ultrasound signals that bats make to identify objects and insect prey.

Ms Wainright said: “When people hear bats calling for the first time on a bat detector, it’s always a special moment and one most people never forget. Being out with the bats and watching how acrobatic they are and hearing them call is really special.

“The various species call at different kHz which helps when identifying them. Tuning a heterodyne detector to a set frequency and hearing the bat you are looking at is not only really fun but also quite addictive. Lesser horseshoe bats sound like little UFOs!”

Different bat species also have preferred places to roost; pipestrelle and brown long-eared bats like to hide in between the bricks and tiles of old buildings, lofts and railway tunnels, while other species such as the noctule prefer old trees with hollows that they can climb into.

The AONB is working towards Dark Sky status to make the night sky clearer for stargazing, which will also benefit the bats.

Ms Wainright added: “The species detected were noted during this initial survey before a more thorough survey is undertaken at a later stage.”

More events are set to take place in Corwen and Llangollen soon. For more information call 01824 712757 or visit the Clwydian Range & Dee Valley AONB website.