Mirror Works: The real Batman; AS NIGHT FALLS ON HALLOWEEN, ONE BRAVE SOUL WILL SEEK CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE FURRED KIND. HE'S..
THERE'S not a Batmobile in sight and he certainly doesn't wear a cape but batman Phil Briggs is definitely the real thing.
Armed with his trusty torch and a hi-tech detector, Phil keeps a watchful eye over British bats in his role with the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT).
"Once I discovered them, I was hooked," says Phil, who may know little of Gotham City but knows everything about the shadowy haunts where bats lurk.
"They're fascinating creatures and it's easy to become almost obsessed with them.
"At dusk I'm usually out there seeing what I can find and I lead bat walks for my local bat conservation group."
As monitoring project manager for the BCT, Phil's day job is to co-manage the National Bat Monitoring Programme.
"With the help of 2,000 volunteers, we're counting, analysing and studying the 17 species of UK bat, all of which are protected by law because their numbers have decreased so dramatically," explains Phil, 35. Bats, he continues, are much maligned and their spooky association with Halloween is somewhat unfair.
However, Phil admits that when it comes to the blood-sucking vampire bats made famous in Dracula there is a grain of truth.
"But they rarely feed on human blood - they much prefer cattle, horses, pigs and birds," he says.
"And they don't 'suck', they make a graze to encourage a flow of blood and then lap it up with their tongue. They take about a tablespoon of blood each night!"
The good news is these bats don't come from relatively nearby Transylvania and actually live in Central and South America.
"One of the biggest fears of people on my bat walks is that they will get stuck in your hair," laughs Phil. "That just won't happen. They have excellent navigation skills using sonar so the only time you'll ever get that close is if you find one that is grounded or injured."
In fact, to keep track of the winged mammals, Phil has to use modern bat detectors which pick up the high-pitch frequencies bats use to communicate.
"Over the years I've learned to distinguish each species by the sound - there's still a few rare ones, such as the Bechstein's bat, I haven't heard, though, and I live in hope of hearing them."
When Phil's not out in the field, he spends a lot of time in the office collating information about bat communities around the country. "We have staff collecting and analysing the information but I help interpret it. It's wonderful when you see that a population has grown in a certain area."
A particular highlight for Phil came last year when a paper he co-wrote on trends in London's bat populations - which he was pleased to report were slowly on the increase - was published in The London Naturalist.
Along with his work in the office, Phil also travels around the country raising bat awareness.
"Although laws are in place, there's still the need to work with government and agencies to protect bats," he explains. "I'm not a natural public speaker but I can stand my ground when explaining how they need our help."
Phil fell into his role by chance.
He studied English and history at university and then worked in publishing, inputting data.
"At about the same time, the London Wetlands Centre opened in Barnes, South West London, near where I live. I'd always been interested in wildlife and decided to volunteer."
Shy by nature, Phil soon gained confidence in this world and led some wildlife walks. "It was then that I first discovered bats. Something about them just appealed to me. I went off and bought my first detector."
Gradually, guided by the staff at the centre, he became a bit of an expert. "One day they told me the BCT was looking for staff," he says. "I jumped at the chance. I didn't have any zoological or conservation qualifications but my volunteering stood me in great stead and I got the job."
That was five years ago.
"I started off co-ordinating volunteers and then got my current job 18 months ago. I still can't believe I'm lucky enough to earn a living studying something that interests me so much."
Find out about The Bat Conservation Trust at www.bats.org.uk Join online in November, using the promotional code HALLOWEEN, and get 16 months' membership for the price of 12!
DARK KNIGHT Phil Briggs is armed with his torch and bat detector Picture: MIKE MOORE