Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Friday, August 17, 2012

You Don't Need a Belfry

The adventure started when someone noticed a small creature who apparently had decided to nest (or more accurately roost) in the light fixture above my front door.  A tiny thing, it seemed content to hide from all those people who were poking brooms and things at him/her.  There were droppings on the stoop and we soon concluded that we were housing a bat.

As resident defender of the health and humanity of my family and guests, I immediately embarked on an online search of what danger bats might present.

Turns out, not so much.

When we lived in the Philippine Islands, we would often see, hear and sense the swoop of the huge Fruit Bats that frequented our back yard around dusk.  They would have a three foot, or more, wing span and often came close enough to remind us of the horror stories of bats getting tangled in one’s hair.  Our bat, hardly more than four inches long would likely go unnoticed, even with its wing span of more than a foot.  Other species, including several Vampire Bats, might be of concern.

It appears our little critter posed no such danger.

Audubon House
I quickly found that Orange County, California has no end of people who know, admire, and are dedicated to getting others to know and admire, bats.  Eventually, Mary and I were fortunate enough to get invited to a newly added Bat Walk, sponsored by the Sea and Sage Audubon Society.  When we attended, others in our class of fifteen, included a couple of young children, age eleven or so, the physician of one of the Docents, and two highly-placed members of the Irvine Ranch Water District, which has had an ongoing, symbiotic relationship with the Audubon group for many years: benefiting from the protected waterways by research and cost containment of recycling water.
Stephanie Remington

Our guide through the two hour presentation and walk was Stephanie Remington, who has been featured in, among other journals, Coast Magazine.  Stephanie told us that there are almost 1300 varieties of bats in the world.  Most are insect eater and many pay an important part in pollination, an especially interesting tidbit of information since our bees are having survival problem.  Bat too, it turns out, but the major danger is pretty much confined to the East Coast, a fungus that turns the nose white with sometime fatal consequences.  The good news is that the fungus has been in Europe for many years and bats seem able to build up immunity.

The Duck Club
After a fascinating Power Point presentation in which she showed us a cave in Austin, Texas that houses sometimes 20,000,000 bat moms, mammals not birds, and their 20,000,000 nursing pups. (The eleven year-old got the math correct.  My question was, “Where are the dads?” The answer of which was, “After they mate they go in search of their own bat hose until it’s time to mate again.”)

How very Southern California.

Stephanie gave some of the group oscillators, which could capture the otherwise inaudible chirps used by the bats to locate insects, obstacles and each other.  One set was keyed to the Yuma Myotis bat (like the one on our porch) and the other to the Mexican free-tailed bat, the two most common dusk-feeding bats in Orange County.  The kids held counters and the numbers seen were respectably high, even if the young fingers, ears, eyes and imaginations might have exaggerated them a bit.

The walk was pleasant, the evening cool for this time of year, the insects appeared occupied with bat survival more than biting us, and the hour walk sped by.  We saw the Duck Club and the Audubon House and some of the lovely 12-mile path and bridge.

I would endorse this program on so many fronts.  I am renewing my membership in the Audubon Society, and encouraging my son to take his children to the more open Bird Watching Walks and next year to get them signed up for a Bat Walk.  Announcement in February, signups in March and sold out that very same month.  My son thinks they may have a bat on their porch too.  One thing for sure, if so, we both have males.

This week I heard a story about the government collecting failed student loans from Social Security checks.  Next post I intend to figure out what that is all about.

Have any of you been on a Bat Walk?

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