Volume 12
Issue 2

BCI members Elaine McCann and Rob Sinton are both teachers. Following are excerpts from Elaine’s daily journal.

June 28: We’ve heard an Idionycteris, the bat that can switch from inaudible high frequency to the lower frequency audible echolocation. Perhaps we can hear them because the moths are out now-that’s Bert’s theory. Everyone hushes, turns out their lights, and crouches down. She flies into our net. Bert crashes out into the pond. He frees her before she has a chance to get tangled. We cheer. She is so adorable. Long expressive ears and such a cute face. We watch as he draws a drop of milk from her nipple. A lactating female. As she calms down, she unfurls her ears, listening to the sounds around her, and is finally freed to return to the nursery colony and her baby.

June 29: Mist netting again. We set up three nets at intervals over the pond. What a sensation as the waders fill with air and you try to rush out to the bats and the water holds you back. We caught hoary and silver-haired bats, and a Myotis occultus–three species not netted the night before, as well as three others that we had. What a beauty that hoary is, a lion’s mane of soft yellow fur around her face, dark brown near her eyes, making them appear much larger, little white patches on her elbows, and that hoary frost on the top and back of her head. Who could be afraid of such a beautiful creature?

Bert tagged a female Myotis volans. We watched as he expertly cut tufts of fur off a spot on her back–about a centimeter square. Then a swipe of glue, wait until it begins to bubble, another swipe of glue on the transmitter, then bury the device into her fur. It hardly shows. She gets her florescent arm band, settles into Bert’s cradling hand for a half hour to set the glue, then bat number 151.198 is off.

June 30: Rob and I set off on our own with two radio receivers, tracking 151.198, the little volans from the night before. Miraculously, the signal was coming in loud and clear. We headed into the forest up the mountain and separated, but we both ended up at the same pair of snags. The northerly one had a large vertical crack, perfect for bats. We came back to headquarters beaming. We had tracked our first bat without any help!

July 6: Bert and I went up to Michaelback Ridge to the highest point on the volcanic rock. What a view! San Francisco Peaks in front of us, Wing Mountain to the side, and surrounded by prairie. As the sun set behind us, it cast an eerie glow and left silhouettes of the mountains behind us. The moon, just past full, rises a little later each evening. Stars were abundant and bright. You could even see the Milky Way in the absence of moonlight.

July 8: Rob and I went to the original 936 occultus roost, a snag with a vertical slit about three inches wide. You could see the sky through it. The original exit count produced over 100 bats. Tonight we were to set up and photograph bats exiting and crawling around the tree. Not one bat exited. 936 has been followed to at least six roosting places, at least one being in a stump less than two feet high.

April 19, 1994: We’ve been home from the field for nine months now, and the memories of Coconino are still vivid. Every time I see a snag in the New Jersey forests, I look for loose bark and lightning strikes. I peek inside and think, “This is a great bat roost!” I wonder if the New Jersey bats think so too. But the only sighting so far has been of a single big brown bat flushed from the brush during a stream cleanup. I am so anxious to see my friends again!

Rob and I have given numerous slide shows at schools, to environmental groups and Kiwanis, explaining the benefits bats shower on the human inhabitants of this earth, with the hope that people will show more kindness to these creatures of the night. We hope that soon, when people ask us who are the major predators of bats, we will no longer have to say “humans.” I can’t wait for our next bat adventure–a chance to learn more about bats, to meet them up close and personal.

Wading in a cold mountain pond, Tom Morrell (left) sets a net with Elaine McCann (center), and Bert Grantges (right). Researchers, aided by volunteers, tagged a selected number of the netted bats to track them back to their roosts.