Celebrating Bats

Spectacled Flying Fox Bat, Australia

With Halloween around the corner, a bat celebration is in order.

 

Bats occupy every continent except Antarctica, and represent 20% of mammals worldwide. There are 1,200 different species.

 

Grey-headed Flying Foxes, Sydney, Australia

 

Grey-headed Flying Fox, Sydney, Australia

I have only one memory of bats when I was young, and it was my grandmother getting hysterical because one had somehow gotten into the attic. It was a big thing for us girls, who were repeatedly warned that bats make nests in your hair. We all feared bats.

 

This is a curious memory, because I spent many nights outside, playing, and I am sure they were all around me. But all I remember is the bat in Grandma’s attic and my deathly fear of getting one in my hair.

 

Fortunately I grew up. Fortunately I found the beauty of bats.

Grey-headed Flying Foxes, Sydney, Australia

Grey-headed Flying Fox, Sydney, Australia

Bats have so many outstanding qualities, here are just a few. They…

  • navigate by echolocation  — use sound to see.
  • are the only mammal who can fly on their own power.
  • consume large quantities of pests — up to 1,000 mosquitoes a night.
  • are prolific pollinators — over 530 species of flowering plants rely on bats for pollination.

 

Bats — Wikipedia

 

Canyon Bat, Calif., in his favorite spot on our deck, inside the deck umbrella

I often go out in the dark to look at stars and listen for owls. Sometimes a bat will come near me, I feel their flutter. Even though I am a tall pillar in complete darkness, they zoom around me effortlessly. And no, they never get caught in my hair.

 

While traveling, I have had some fantastic bat sightings.

 

In Trinidad we came upon a species in the rainforest that we discovered came out every night from underneath our lodge. Fortunately we found them on the first night, and every night thereafter had the thrill of witnessing their emergence.

 

One whizzed by so fast I didn’t even see it, I just felt the breeze on my ear. A post I wrote about it: Enjoying the Bats. 

 

Long-tongued Bats emerging, Asa Wright, Trinidad

 

Pallas’ Long-Tongued Bat, Trinidad

My favorite place to see bats, however, is in Australia, because they have megabats on that continent. Big bats called Flying Foxes.

 

Megabats are the size of birds and assist in re-seeding forests. These days humans are taking down the forests at devastating rates, so having a mammal actually regenerate the forest is a refreshing change.

 

Grey-headed Flying Fox colony, Sydney, Australia

 

Pair of Spectacled Flying Foxes, Australia

 

I love this Australian Aboriginal cave art drawing of bats, because it’s a great reminder of how long bats and humans have been coexisting on our planet.

 

Aboriginal cave art, bats. Photo by Les Hall. Courtesy allaboutbats.org.au

 

More info about bats:

Bat Conservation International (This week is Bat Week)

Merlin Tuttle, bat conservationist and bat photographer. The real Batman.

White-nose syndrome. Caused by a fungus from Eurasia; mass mortality problems have not affected bats there, but the U.S. is suffering a loss.

 

“To the Batcave” (to borrow one of Batman’s lines):

Bat Viewing Sites Around the World

Bat-watching Sites in Texas, the state with the most bat species in the U.S.

 

So as the sun goes down on Halloween, while you’re out there tricking or treating, keep your eyes peeled on the sky. Look for silhouettes of what the ancients called flittermouse. One of these mammalian marvels is probably out devouring pesky insects, giving you a treat.

 

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

Grey-headed Flying Fox

Batman and Robin. Art by Jack Burnley. Courtesy Wikipedia.

 

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112 thoughts on “Celebrating Bats

    • Glad you enjoyed the bat post Hien. As you can imagine, photos of bats are not easy because bats are so fast and it’s almost always too dark. The expression “go batty” is yes, a disservice to bats, since they are such amazing creatures. Hope your weekend is filled with photos, Hien.

  1. Wonderful creatures indeed Jet. And the flying fox in Australia is a classic for all our media associations with them, with it’s cloak hugged around itself like Dracula. We have led bat walks at night here occasionally, with bat detectors to record the echo location they use – it’s really cool 😊

    • Love hearing about your recording of the echolocation, Alastair. And how great that you’ve led bat walks. We have a bat house on the side of our cottage, and sometimes the door would accidentally hit it, and that was the only time I could hear a bat. I guess I woke him up. A very high-pitched screeching. And yes, I so love the flying foxes for that cloak look. So fun to share this very cool mammal with you.

  2. As a young girl, I remember being deathly afraid of bats since I’d also heard they will make a nest in your hair. The number of mosquitoes they eat each night is amazing given the fact that when I’m outside in the summer, I see bats all around, but I still get eaten alive by mosquitoes. Imagine how many more bites I could have! Great post, Jet. Your photographs are fantastic!

    • I am glad there are new messages about bats that children are learning these days, rather than the silly nest-in-your-hair myth we were taught. Thanks for your comment, Jill, glad you enjoyed the bats today.

  3. Wonderful post. Bats used to be common sights, but they’re getting very scarce these days. We used to see them every night as kids. They’d flutter around the street lights as they came on, and flittered about the sky on camping trips. We rarely see one these days.

    • I love your description, Craig, of the abundance of bats as a youth. the population not only took a hit with misguided information and a general hatred toward them, but the white-nose syndrome has also severely affected the population. Interestingly, I read that colonies of bats are not sleeping as closely together now, having themselves discovered the contagion, and trying to compensate. What a remarkable animal! Great comment, thanks so much.

  4. We have little bats here that fly around eating the giant beetles I so detest. When I’m outside waiting for the dogs to do their last business of the day, and I see bats flitting back and forth between the trees, I’m thrilled to see them, but I always turn up my collar, to cover my jugular veins … just in case.

  5. I’m afraid I never grew out of those irrational fears. Bats still creep me out, no matter how hard I try to see them through your eyes. :>(
    However, the fact that you include them in your Halloween Creepy post shows me I’m not alone! ;>)

    • Thank you, Dina. Bats are nearly impossible to photograph moving, because they’re so fast and it’s often dark. But the roosting colonies, like the Flying Foxes who are big and roosting in daylight, make it a tad easier. Thanks very much.

    • We are lucky in northern California to have 17 different bat species, David. So I am glad you are happier to encounter bats, because we have many. And I chuckled at your joke about your remaining hair. Always a delight, my friend…thank you.

  6. Bats are such fascinating creatures….but like you I believe a lot of people growing up think of them as being rather spooky and frightening. Thank you so much for shedding such a lovely light on them. When I lived in Wales I used to love sitting in my little garden with bats swooshing around in the evenings.
    Thinking of you and hoping that all is well and that work continues to progress on your property. janet 🙂

    • I like your word “swooshing,” Janet, because that is what bats do, they swoosh. Wonderful to have you stop by, and I am happy you enjoyed the post, and have experienced garden enjoyment with them in Wales. Things are progressing on our property. We’re all hurrying to get erosion control in place before the winter rains arrive. I have been enjoying the night skies lately, here where the stars are incredibly abundant. Smiles to you, dear friend.

    • Thanks so much, Cathy. I imagine with all the places you have been and the many garden and outdoor experiences you’ve had, that you’ve seen your share of bats. Always pleasant to have you stop by, thank you.

  7. What a post! They are all wonderful, but the flying foxes are quite something. Thank goodness something that large doesn’t really want to nest in your hair, not that that’s a problem these days…
    Enjoyed the facts and photographs, and loved how you’ve gone in to bat for this misunderstood mammal. Flittermouse – what a word!
    Thanks, Jet, and have a great weekend.

    • Great, as always, to receive your visit and comment, pc. Fun word talk, too, with going “to bat” and your comment on “flittermouse.” And you’re right, those flying foxes are indeed quite something. I hope you and Mrs. pc have a terrific weekend, I am sure you will. 🙂

  8. Bats are cool mammal no doubt however, most people fear them. When I lived in New Jersey I had bats in my attic, at dusk you were able to see them coming out. Bats are very beneficial to Nature in general. Now, in Georgia I see them sometimes in the early mornings (waiting for the School bus) and just as you pointed out on your post they fly by so close that you feel them breezing by you. Tyler asks…was that a bird? Then I explain and he is amazed by it. Thank you for your great post my friend. Take care! 🙂

    • I so enjoyed hearing about your bat experiences, HJ. And I love the image of you and Tyler waiting together in the early morning for the school bus, while bats breeze by. It’s great that he’s aware of them, and that you can teach him and he is amazed. This is a poignant story, and I am grateful to you for sharing it. It makes my work of defending this maligned mammal worth it. Always a pleasure, HJ, thank you.

  9. Wonderful Post, Jet. You always provide such good info and photos. The first time I saw the Flying Foxes in Sydney there were hundreds of them hanging all over the trees in the botanic garden. It was eerily amazing. When I returned a few years later they were gone- I think they relocated after the trees were stripped bare. My two other bat experiences: Carlsbad Caverns and the famous bridge in DC where hundreds emerged at sunset. 🦇 🦇 🦇😁

    • A treat to hear your bat experiences, Jane. The grey-headed flying foxes in Sydney that are photographed here were also from a visit to their botanic garden, back in 2010 when they still lived there. You are right, after much controversy and consternation, they were somehow relocated, due to the damage they were causing in the gardens. I am really glad you got to witness this amazing sight. We found the spectacled flying foxes in the Atherton Tablelands in northwestern Queensland. Loved the bat icons, too. Thanks so much, Jane.

    • Your memory is correct, Sherry, their guano has a sour smell. I am delighted you got to see them in Sydney, and always happy to hear of someone who loves bats. Thanks so much. 🙂

  10. I came from Mauritius in mid-October and I saw a large number of Mauritius fruit bat flying in the dark above my head. It is a large megabat species endemic to Mauritius and La Réunion. It was the first time I’ve seen flying fox. Great!! By the way in Germany we say flying dogs. Have a nice weekend!

    • Loved hearing about Mauritius’s endemic fruit bat on these islands in the Indian Ocean, Simone. I looked them up, and they are large flying foxes, and their populations have nearly been wiped out, and then recovered over the past centuries. What a thrill it must have been for you to see them. Also liked hearing that in Germany you call them flying dogs. Thanks for enlightening me, my friend.

  11. I was astonished to see your photos of the ‘hanging’ bats. As far as I knew, they always roosted hidden away in dark places. It’s wonderful to see them all snuggled up like that.

    We have people involved with Bat Watch here; each is responsible for keeping track of specific colonies, both for general conditions and for signs of white-nose syndrome. You mentioned the great number of bats in Texas — one of my favorite things to do is to watch the emergence of bats in specific colonies, like the large one outside San Antonio, on radar. Their predictability’s amazing. Once you’ve spotted them, you can come back to radar at that time every day (adjusting for the time of sunset), and there they are.

    Just as an aside, I can attest to the fact that the large fruit bats found in Liberia are quite tasty. It wasn’t that I intended to eat one, but there was that day in a remote village when I finished my meal and found some strange bones in the bottom of my bowl. I knew they didn’t belong to a chicken. When I was enlightened, there were giggles all around.

    • Wonderful to hear about your bat observations in San Antonio, Linda, and to hear of your fascination with this incredible creature. I love watching bat emergences too — the flurry and power takes my breath away. And I laughed out loud at your experience in Liberia. I have read they are consumed in Asia and other places, in fact in some places they have become endangered due to hunting. But your experience is a classic one, which is why I laughed, because you had no idea you were eating one until you found the bones. This is the curious and entertaining nature of travel, and a great story. Gracious thanks for your stories today.

    • I am happy you enjoyed the bat post, Sharon. Curious and beautiful they are, I agree; and I’m glad you think so too, Sharon. I imagine you could make a delightful drawing of one, but it would probably not be too well received, so I am happy we can enjoy them together here. Warmest thanks.

  12. Congratulations on this wonderful informative and very interesting post, Jet. So much I didn’t know! Excellent captures of the bats, Athena! I have never seen anything like those photos, they look almost adorable. 😉 I used to be terrified by bats. On warm summer nights they would fly into the corridors of the hospital when I was on night duty, scary … Now we live close to a gorgeous church housing a big colony of bats and after I attended a lecture on bats in churches ( the lecture included a presentation about bats and their use of churches, we saw baby bats being fed etc) and now I love the sound they make when they emerge from their roost site.
    Lots of love to you both,
    The Fab Four of Cley

    • Oh how I love this story, dear Fab Four, for it perfectly describes the magic of educating and how it can turn fear into understanding, if we have the ability to change our minds. Thanks for sharing the bat experiences, much enjoyed.

  13. What a fascinating post, Jet! I have always been a bit vary about bats, but seen close up like here in Athena’s great pictures, they are actually quite cute. Thank you!

    • Bats do have their cute sides, I think it’s that little snub nose for starters. I’m glad you enjoyed the bat post, Helen, and happy that you were able to look at them with a new eye. I would imagine there are a fair amount of bats in Florida. Thanks so much for your visits.

  14. Oh my goodness, Jet, this post was for real absolutely fascinating! I never knew for one, that bats used their wings to hang upside down when they sleep. They have the cutest of faces! Every single image was truly incredible as my eyes gazed at wonders that I have never seen. Thank you so much!!

  15. Twenty percent of all mammals? I’m not sure Canada is holding up its international bat housing quota. Likely too cold in many locations for them. We did see some of the megabats in Australia which looked like they might come by and grab you by the shoulder and take you on a sightseeing tour. Always learning something new here Jet. Fabulous photos by Athena too.

    • Your comment made me laugh, Sue, thanks. Those megabats do look like they could grab you and take you away. lol. Always a joy to have you stop by. I hope you are doing well….

  16. A perfect and informative post on bats around Halloween! I have respect for them now myself, but I too was told when I was a kid that they would attack girls to get into their hair to nest. We had them everywhere around the woods and clearing where we lived. I could hear them breeze by me and I’d go running! 😅

    • Loved your description from your girlhood days, Donna, of the bats that would “breeze” by you, and get you running. Gosh, I hope someone has changed that script for girls of today. Thank you, always a treat to have you stop by.

  17. 1000 mosquitoes per night!, I wouldn’t mind one in my house….. just kidding of course…. imagine 1000 mosquitoes in your house 😦 Great photos of the bats in Trinidad!!

    • Hi Bertie, Great to hear from you, means you made it home safely. Glad that you enjoyed the bat post, and thanks for making me laugh at your joke. Cheers, my friend. 🙂

  18. I have a rather vivid memory of my mother the closest I’ve ever seen her to hysteria, when one showed up in her bedroom one night. I think I was likely told that it would ‘nest’ in your hair. Then, somewhere as the years went by, I became aware of their benefit. I’ve had bat houses since around 1990+. We now have two at the new house and it seems they’re well occupied. I have to admit to also freaking out (just a little) when one was found darting about in my bedroom! As much as I love them, their erratic (to me) flight is a bit unsettling.

    • It is erratic flight that the little bats especially have, and not fun to have them in your home. Enjoyed hearing your experiences of the bats, Gunta. And how wonderful that you have invited the bats to roost in bat houses at your new house. Thanks so much for your visit, always a joy.

  19. I was afraid of bats, too, as a child but have grown to love them as an adult. I used to watch the nightly migration of momma racoon and her kits across my yard and on to the park. As they left each night then the bats would come out. It was my favorite summer evening entertainment to watch how these two species choreographed their evening adventures. Unfortunately, our bat population has almost disappeared to a disease (bat nose?). We saw a few in the park this summer but nothing like what used to visit our yard every night. Thank you for this informative post with such great photos.

    • Thanks so much, LuAnne, I sure enjoyed hearing about the raccoons and the bats, and your acquired love for the bats. It is sad to see the bat population struggling with the white-nose syndrome, I agree. Gives us a good reason to protect them more than ever. Really great to have you stop by, thank you.

  20. Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America, with some one-and-a-half million living from spring through fall under the Congress Avenue Bridge. The colony has become a big tourist attraction and people gather at dusk to watch the bats fly out for their night-long feeding.

  21. Love the ones just hanging from the trees wrapped in their own tiny ‘collapsed umbrella’ wings. What a sight that must be. The nearest I’ve ever got to a bat was a small one in our bedroom last year (it flew through an open window in summer). I eventually caught it in a small fishing net… RH

    • I can imagine you have fishing nets readily available where you live, RH. The image of you catching a bat in your house with a fishing net gave me a sweet smile, thank you. I love the ones with the flying foxes stretched inside their wings too. So cool.

  22. You are my kind of human! As I cleaned in the kitchen one summer night, my husband yelled “Um help!” This was his reaction to a bat in the living room. Guess who had the task of getting it out? I suppose he knows I’m efficient and I’ve been dubbed “Snow White.” Thus, the short version: He falls asleep. I called my Dad (he grew up on a farm) His advice: “Well babe, you may just have to whack him!” Not happening. Eventually, I trapped little Batty in a container. I trapped it on the curtain and slid a lid between Batty and said curtain. Once outside I removed the lid and it lay there breathing hard, exhausted to immobility & frightened from the hour-long episode. I knew I may get bit, but chose to pet it anyway. It was amazingly soft and adorable! What happened to Grandma’s attic bat?

    • Funny story about your bat, Dawn Renee. My grandfather whacked it with a broom, just the same advice as your Dad gave. There was a lot of drama. Fortunately people these days have more respect for those lovely creatures. I love it that you petted the bat. They look soft. Many thanks.

    • I love bats too, Katy. Just this morning at dawn as I was sitting at my desk, I saw a bat come out of someplace near our roof on its way to begin the day of foraging. Very cool, and fun to share these little creatures with you.

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