SUBSCRIBE TO MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL & HELP SUPPORT BATS

Bat-spotting at Carlsbad Caverns


THERE's nothing like bats to draw a crowd to the scorching Chihuahuan Desert in the late summer heat.

Several hundred people, myself and my son included, gathered a little before sunset one recent weekend outside the natural, open-mouth entrance to Carlsbad Caverns, eager to witness the nightly spectacle of bats spiralling out by the thousands and winging their way toward a buggy dinner.

With a pandemic disease killing millions of bats farther east, we wanted to see the impressive Carlsbad colony before it might be too late.

The caverns - home to perhaps 350,000 to 450,000 bats representing 16 species - were the big draw for us after having read Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Throw in a nightly bat exodus, and the decision was made. We would visit at the hottest time of year in the hope of seeing a colony swelled in numbers by new-flying pups.

White-nose syndrome, the mysterious fungal bat-killer, has biologists everywhere on guard.

The disease is believed to have spread from New York state, destroying an estimated 5.5 million bats since 2006 in the eastern US and Canada, as well as the Midwest. The tell-tale sign of affliction: white powdery fungus on the nose, ears, wings and feet.

Fortunately at least for Carlsbad Caverns, white-nose syndrome, or WNS, has yet to make it this far west. US National Park Service biologist Renee West said there's reason to believe Carlsbad may be in luck as its bats tend not to hibernate in winter. (The disease appears to target hibernating bats.)

When you consider a single bat can eat up to 1000 bugs an hour - think yummy mosquitoes - the consequences are shocking. Besides a mosquito onslaught, farmers stand to lose billions of dollars from insect-ravaged crops.

No wonder then that the park service has set up a shoe-sanitising depot outside Carlsbad Caverns for anyone who might have visited a WNS-infested cave.

My son and I had visited hard-hit Laurel Caverns in southwestern Pennsylvania the previous month, and we wore different shoes just in case.

As they do every evening from May to mid-October, the crowds began gathering an hour before sundown at the stone amphitheatre next to Carlsbad Caverns' gaping mouth.

Glenn Reynolds, the National Park Service ranger serving as master of ceremonies for that evening's bat flight programme, urged the crowd to snap one last picture before turning off all cameras, cell phones and other electronic devices. The gadget blackout, he explained, was to protect the bats.

Dozens of tourists took his advice, posing for one last round of pictures with the deep, black hole as a backdrop, as swallows swooped overhead before settling into their nests in the natural walls.

"The day shift is about to end," Reynolds noted.

Minutes later, the bats began to emerge, appearing as black shadows circling counterclockwise, first dozens, then hundreds, too many clumps to count in the dimming sky.

They headed toward the hills off to the right, occasionally passing right over our heads.

Not one cell phone rang. No flashes went off. The crowd was here to see the Mexican free-tailed bats, and everyone seemed to obey the rules. Rangers prowled the amphitheatre, looking for potential violators and stray rattlesnakes. (One rattler had to be shooed off.)

As asked, the spectators were largely silent, with only the occasional whisper or baby's cry.

Within half an hour, half the crowd had gone - the human crowd that is. By the time darkness set in, only a few dozen die-hards were left, peering into the night for signs of flight.

Reynolds said afterwards the bat flight that evening had been thin but steady, and that his trained eyes observed thousands of bats launching into the pitch black.

This summer's persistent drought may be reducing the numbers of bats, he noted, with many of the creatures relocating temporarily to moister areas.

Whatever the cause, this night there was no black funnel cloud of bats boiling out as described by local cowboy Jim White who entered the cave in 1898 or thereabouts and fought over the years to promote it.

Biologist West said it's impossible to know at any given moment how many bats are in the caverns.

"We try to couch everything we say with 'typically' or 'generally,' " she said.

Most of the Carlsbad colony leaves sometime in October or November, heading to Mexico for the winter. They return in April or May.

Keeping with that migratory schedule, the park service offers nightly bat flight programmes from Memorial Day weekend (at the end of May) until mid-October, weather permitting. And once a summer, rangers hold a breakfast bat flight programme so early birds - the human variety - can catch the return of the bats.

The lesson is clear: Bats are our friends, mammals just like us. No, they don't dive into women's big hairdos. No, they're not blind. And yes, the vampire bats of Central and South America like blood, but they lick it from their animal victims' wounds, no sucking whatsoever.

We adopted a bat for US$5 before leaving, part of a research and education effort. We even got to name it.

Squeaky Toes, stay safe.

IF YOU GO

Carlsbad Caverns' Bat Flight Programme: Carlsbard Caverns National Park, New Mexico. Every evening from about hour before sunset between Memorial Day weekend and mid-October. Entry is free, no reservations required.

Tips: All cell phones, cameras or other electronic devices must be turned off and observers are asked to remain quiet. Young children and babies are welcome. Do not wander into brush; rattlesnakes may be present. A flashlight may be helpful for making way back to the parking lot. Before driving away, pause to behold the magnificent wide-open night sky.

COMMENTS

BatsRule!/\^._.^/\Help Save WildLife
Name

Articles,62,Audio,16,Backyard,13,Barbed Wire,23,Bat Art,39,Bat Books,74,Bat Box,26,Bat Clothing,14,Bat Issues,535,Bat Stamps,1,Bats for Children,32,Bats for the Home,67,Electrocution,8,Events,33,info on bats,509,Jackie Sparrow,22,Microbats,429,Misc,89,Netting,32,Newsletter,4,Promoting,130,Rehab,73,Rehab 2011,5,Rehab 2012,24,Rehab 2013,12,Rehab 2014,6,Rehab 2015,104,Rehab 2016,101,Rehab 2017,19,Release Cage,2,RESCUE,62,Rescue 2012,4,RESCUE 2013,18,RESCUE 2014,8,RESCUE 2015,24,Rescue 2016,12,RESCUE 2017,5,Rob Mies,11,Shooting,2,Vegetation,23,Video,265,Virus,117,WebSites-Bat,43,
ltr
item
Megabats and Microbats: Bat-spotting at Carlsbad Caverns
Bat-spotting at Carlsbad Caverns
https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-WnIfKK4RUTs/Vunpl1U2kcI/AAAAAAACPb0/gwuewxfnve8bfbzTENaOlAcyI8JXZZk8g/s1600/Bat-spotting%2Bat%2BCarlsbad%2BCaverns.jpg
https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-WnIfKK4RUTs/Vunpl1U2kcI/AAAAAAACPb0/gwuewxfnve8bfbzTENaOlAcyI8JXZZk8g/s72-c/Bat-spotting%2Bat%2BCarlsbad%2BCaverns.jpg
Megabats and Microbats
http://www.batsrule.info/2016/03/bat-spotting-at-carlsbad-caverns.html
http://www.batsrule.info/
http://www.batsrule.info/
http://www.batsrule.info/2016/03/bat-spotting-at-carlsbad-caverns.html
true
4238281482117672351
UTF-8
Loaded All Posts Not found any posts VIEW ALL Readmore Reply Cancel reply Delete By Home PAGES POSTS View All RECOMMENDED FOR YOU LABEL ARCHIVE SEARCH ALL POSTS Not found any post match with your request Back Home Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat January February March April May June July August September October November December Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec just now 1 minute ago $$1$$ minutes ago 1 hour ago $$1$$ hours ago Yesterday $$1$$ days ago $$1$$ weeks ago more than 5 weeks ago Followers Follow THIS CONTENT IS PREMIUM Please share to unlock Copy All Code Select All Code All codes were copied to your clipboard Can not copy the codes / texts, please press [CTRL]+[C] (or CMD+C with Mac) to copy