Follow these tips to maximize your batty observations.
By Kristen Pope
After browsing BCI’s bat profiles and listening to calls from species like hoary bats and spotted bats, are you excited to see real live bats? Here are a few tips to help find bats near you and maximize your experience watching them. Let’s go batting!
Even though bats are nocturnal, the best time to view them is at dusk, since they’ll just be leaving their roosts to hunt, but it’s not yet pitch black. Similarly, you could see bats returning to their roosts just before the sun rises. Going out when it’s already dark means you may hear or detect bats, but not see them.
Find open water
Find a body of freshwater, such as a pond, lake, or creek, around dusk. When bats emerge to find food in the evening, one of their first stops is usually for a drink of water. Most bats need 7 to 10 feet of open water to dive down and drink while flying, so look for places with open space above the water. During dry conditions or droughts, water bodies are an especially good spot to see bats. Sometimes in urban areas, bats will drink from swimming pools.
Seek out native plants
If you’re not near a body of water, take a peek in areas with native plants and grasses around dusk. These areas can provide good foraging habitat, and bats might be flying around looking for food. Your chances are even greater if the area has night-blooming plants or lots of moths. If you are near a bat garden, that’s a great place to look.
Go to a bat emergence
Maybe you’ve seen a few bats near home, or perhaps you’re still eager to see your first bat. Either way, if you want to see an unforgettable bat event, make plans to attend a bat emergence. BCI’s website showcases emergence events around the world where you can see massive colonies of bats emerge at night to feed. Two popular ones are Bracken Cave and Congress Avenue Bridge, both in Central Texas.
Join a Bat Walk
Check out the dozens of BCI partners that offer Bat Walks. Join a trained leader to explore bats in your area. If you don’t see an organization near you on the list, you may want to reach out to your local science or nature center to see if they might be interested in hosting Bat Walks in the future.
If you have an occupied bat house, keep an eye on it around dusk when bats emerge to find food. Not sure if bats are using the bat house? You don’t want to shine a flashlight inside since that will disturb the bats. Instead, take a peek below the bat house and look for bat poop (called guano). The guano of insectivorous bats is shiny and iridescent from the exoskeletons of the insects they eat.
Bring the right tools
If you have a pair of binoculars, be sure to bring them along. As day turns to night, they will become less useful, but they may help you get a better view of bats when there’s still some light out. Be sure to never shine any type of light towards a bat, but consider bringing a red light to preserve your night vision and help you move around safely in the dark. Red light is less disruptive to wildlife, and many head lamps include a red light setting.
Enhance your experience with a bat detector
In order to further immerse yourself in the world of bats, you may want to acquire a bat detector to enhance the experience. Wildlife Acoustics makes bat detectors, which retail for the price of a good pair of binoculars. These devices, which connect to some phones and tablets, help you hear bat calls the human ear cannot detect, and can identify bats based on their calls.