Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Catching Bats, Flying Squirrels, Owls, Birds, and Frogs

Hello!  I know it probably doesn't feel the same to you, but to me it seems like we haven't chatted in ages. How are you? Brandon and I spent the last three weeks out of town conducting surveys for endangered bats.  I've told you about it before, I'm sure, but it's always different each year since we rarely go back to the same places.  We spent the most time in northern Ohio, and the photo above is from our very last survey location, near a nice pond which a beautiful sunset and glowing clouds.  This wasn't the only picturesque thing we saw, since there were lovely farms in the area, but since we spent most of our time working in the dark forests, most of my photo are of animals I managed to get in hand or in my nets.  

Being an fan of animals, as I am, I was frequently entertained.  I really like this photo that Brandon took of a big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus).  Bat photography is challenging since it's dark, our headlamps are either too bright or too dim, and bats are wiggly.  But this photo really captured the intricate veins in the wing membrane, and the texture of the fur.  

And, we caught two hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus) this summer.  This isn't a species I've caught very often, and these were first one's Brandon had ever seen, so we were quite excited when we saw them in our nets.  These are really big bats, as far as bats go, and have a beautiful gold, black, and silver pattern in their fur and on their faces.  


You can see how frosted the tips of the fur are in this photo, where the hoary bat is dangling from my glove.

At one of our survey sites, we had three young flying squirrels who were fascinated by our nets, and they had fun driving me crazy by chewing holes in the nets and climbing on the poles that hold the nets in the air.  One of our nets was placed over a shallow pool way back in the woods, with about six inches of water over eight inches of mud.  I was reaching a big stick to the top of the net, trying to entice the flying squirrel onto the stick and out of my net, when my headlamp fell off the back of my head into the water and mud behind me.  Total creepy darkness!  I groped around in the mud for a while, getting all wet and dirty, and finally had to yell for Brandon to come with a light.  

It's a good thing they are adorable!

Someone told me once that they were little devils in a cute suit.

We even caught two screech owls.  Brandon yelled from one of the nets that I should come with my thick gloves.  He said "we've caught... something... a bird or something..."  Ha!  It did look like a bundle of feathers with a giant eye!  I didn't have to use my gloves though.  As soon as I opened the net, he stretched his wings, looked around with his giant eyes, and flew off through the big hole he made with his claws.  Whew.  I'm glad that was easy.

Now that I'm comfortably settled in an air conditioned and parasitic insect-free room, I can look back at my photos and enjoy the memories of the cool bats and other critters we met on this adventure, but it's probably best that I didn't have time for blog posts while we were there, or you would have read weeks worth of complaining!  The mosquitoes were a nightmare!  Biblical even, or maybe I should say apocalyptic.  Whatever word is the worst, that what these mosquitoes were.  They were so bad that we had to wear nets over our faces to keep them from going in our eyes, ears, and mouths.  The buzzing was maddening.  Even with nets over our faces, they would sit on the outside of the nets trying to drink our blood.  Hundreds of them, in swarms around our bodies. It was like nothing I've experienced before.  Even though I was so hot that sweat was dripping from the cuffs of my rain coat, I wore it anyway, just to keep them from biting me.  They could bite through most clothes! This is the first time I ever got mosquito bites on the palms of my hands.  I tried to keep my gloves on as much as possible because I must wear off the bug spray quickly on my hands.  I don't usually poison myself with Deet, but I just had to use it here.  It was horrible.  So HORRIBLE!!!  I've been traumatized.  

We did catch some northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis), which are a federally threatened species now that their populations have plummeted due to a deadly fungus that has infected the caves they hibernate in.  These are small bats with big expressive ears.  We glued tiny transmitters, like the one in the photo, which is attached to a tricolor bat (Perimyotis subflavus), to their backs, and spent the days using a receiver and antenna to find the trees they roost in during the daylight hours.  Then, in the evening, we would watch the roost trees and count the number of bats that emerged.  Not very many were counted.  This used to be one of most common type of bat we would catch, but now there aren't many left. 

Ornithologists use the same type of nets that we use to catch bats, to catch birds.  I try to raise my nets after the birds have gone to bed so I don't have the challenge of untangling them, but every once in a while I catch someone who stayed up late, like this Arcadian flycatcher (Empidonax virescens).  

We didn't catch any frogs in our nets, but we did have several frog encounters, including this tiny wood frog.  I enjoyed the bats, flying squirrels, owls, birds, and frogs, but I'm glad to be home.  I'm glad to be away from those mosquitoes! 

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