Thursday, April 2, 2020

Nature: Spring trip to southern Ohio brings finds of blooms, bats

An eastern red bat/Jim McCormac

Nature: Spring trip to southern Ohio brings finds of blooms, bats

March 29, 2020

NATURE
Jim McCormac

With the coronavirus causing major human disruption, many people are retreating to parks and natural areas for relaxation and recreation. Nature’s processes roll along, uninterrupted, and one can take hope from that.

I ventured southward to Highland County, birthplace of Johnny Paycheck, on March 21 to visit two interesting areas. This scenic county sits at the interface of glaciation, with gently rolling plains to the north and hill country in the south.

Signs of spring’s onset become more pronounced the farther south one goes, and I was in search of such evidence. My first stop was Fallsville Wildlife Area. This 1,400-acre site’s centerpiece is Clear Creek — one of 11 such-named Ohio streams, in at least as many counties. However, none of the rest have a spectacular waterfall.

Fallsville Falls — named for a now extinct village — tumbles over a 20-foot limestone cliff and into a narrow box canyon. Recent rains had swollen the little creek, and the torrent of water plunging over the falls was spectacular. A botanical bonus was scores of tiny snow trilliums blooming on adjacent wooded slopes.

Then it was on to Miller Nature Sanctuary, 20 miles southeast, on land owned and managed by the ODNR’s Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. Of their 130-plus preserves, this is one of the showiest.

My main interest was spring wildflowers, but I also had mammalian hopes. The preserve has many young beech trees in the forest understory, and these plants hold many of last year’s leaves. The senescent foliage offers camouflage for one of our most interesting bats.

Because it was only 32 degrees when I arrived, I was not optimistic about finding bats. However, spring flora was erupting everywhere: snow trillium, rosette leaves of shooting-star, Virginia bluebell in bud, flowering harbinger-of-spring, blue cohosh, spring-beauty and others.

In spite of numerous floral distractions, I kept an eye on the beech trees. Suddenly, there it was — a darker brown lump among the leaves, and I knew from experience what it was.

An eastern red bat!

It was about 30 feet away, and as I moved in the beautiful little mammal’s form took shape. It was hanging upside down, vampire-like, from its feet. Red bats are tiny, about the size of beech leaves, and it’s no mystery why they roost among withered foliage. Their camouflage in such environments is remarkable.

This species is well-named. Their pelage is bright-rusty, the only of our bats to be so-colored. Conspicuous patches of frosty fur indicated this animal was likely a female.

Red bats are highly migratory, and like birds, waves of red bats move north in spring. Some of them also winter at least as far north as southern Ohio, and my find might have been one of those.

In colder weather, red bats will bury into the leaf litter of forest floors. As my bat was hanging in a tree, I wonder if it might have arrived on warm winds of the preceding days.

The interesting little bat, the wildflowers and Highland County’s beautiful scenery made me temporarily forget about the current pandemic and all its associated issues.

Naturalist Jim McCormac writes a column for The Dispatch on the first, third and fifth Sundays of the month. He also writes about nature at www.jimmccormac.blogspot.com.

4 comments:

Tareq's Photography said...

nice blog

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your outing, and especially the bat sighting - although I enjoy all your trips, especially now.

ceci

Anonymous said...

Was hiking at Vesuveis Recreation Area yesterday and there was small orangish bat flying at edge of lake in daylight. Could it have been one of these bats? Not used to seeing bats in mid-afternoon.

Jim McCormac said...

Thanks ceci and hope all is well.

Yes, anonymous almost certainly a red bat

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