Monday, February 22, 2016

Afternoon Bat Flight


Hiding in plain site

We were surveying for salamanders on this warm Sunday when a bat began circling above a tiny pond.  There were a few tiny insects flying slowly and it seemed to be feeding on them.  It would occasionally land on a tree trunk 10 feet up, well camouflaged against the bark.  It  seemed to smack its lips before taking off a within a few seconds.

I sent the photographs off to Melvin Johnson, MN, Bat Cave Awareness Instructor, who confirmed that it was a very upset big brown batIt's mid afternoon flight is unusual, a "red flag" suggesting it was very upset.  This daylight flight can be a sign of sickness, including white nose syndrome (WNS) which has been confirmed in Christian County.  We have had several warm days recently in a generally mild winter so it may have WNS without the usual findings.


Click to enlarge
Big Brown Bat, Eptesicus fuscus is a medium sized bat covered with shiny brown fur.  They are generally nocturnal insectivores, taking beetles, moths and wasps on the wing.  There were several tiny insects flying above the pond including this small wasp that landed on my cap.  This bat seemed to be eating whenever it landed on a tree.


 
Big brown bats spend the winter in caves.  Although there are no known caves in this little valley, the steep hillsides in a karst region could easily hide a small opening to underground caverns.  In spring, they frequently find daytime roosts under loose tree bark and we have lots of shagbark hickory in the valley.  They also roost in hollow trees and we make a point of keeping dead trees standing to provide housing for bats and birds as well as food sources for woodpeckers.

Bat in flight- cellphone photo by Debbie
A reminder for hikers in the woods, the small camera in your pocket can take some good nature pictures.  Our friend Debbie who was out with us got this photograph of the bat in flight with her cellphone.

WNS has been reported in Christian County in 2015 as shown in the red on the map from Whitenosesyndrome.org.  Additional information on WNS in Missouri is available from this MDC site.

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