Thursday, April 18, 2013

Eastern Red Bat!

An exceptionally serendipitous mammalian find came my way today, in an unlikely place. I had to visit the heart of the sprawling campus of Ohio State University, to speak to Angelika Nelson's ornithology class at Jennings Hall. That was fun, and I got to pontificate about wood-warblers - thanks for having me, Angelika!
On the short walk back to the parking garage following the lecture, a very interesting animal turned up and caused an unexpected delay in my schedule.
I had turned the corner behind Jennings Hall, and was walking towards the parking garage, when I spotted an out-of-place blotch on the building in the foreground. We're looking west down 12th Avenue, and that's part of the OSU medical complex on the left. The parking garage where my car was entombed was just down this street.

Anyway, look closely at the second whitish cement rectangle from the ground on the building in the foreground. To me, it stuck out like a sore thumb, and I knew what I was in for.

A bat! And upon arrival it revealed itself to be an Eastern Red Bat, Lasiurus borealis! This was a fortuitous meeting indeed! All I had on me was my Droid, and I starting clicking off photos with that when it dawned on me that I had the Canon locked in the trunk of my car, not far away.

A minor dilemma ensued, as I was off to west campus next, to meet with Erin, Matt, and Paul - the Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas team. I had said I would be over there at 1 pm, and this darned bat was going to throw a wrench in that timing as it'd take a while to go get my gear, return, and make some images.

After a nanosecond of deliberation, it dawned on me that the soon-to-be late meeting was with a bunch of biologists, and who better would understand my excuse for being tardy?! So it was back to the car and the camera was toted back to the bat, who now can appear on the Internet.

Eastern Red Bats are highly migratory, and this one is on its way to points north. They normally don't select such stark surroundings as a roosting spot, and I wished that the animal had done a better job of secreting itself. It was only about seven feet off the ground, and stuck out like a sort thumb against the barren concrete. But with luck, it'll soon be on its way and far from the urban concrete jungle.

Red bats normally hide amongst leaf clusters, such as the long persistent dead brown leaves of American Beech trees. When dangling from a branch, surrounded by old leaves, a red bat is nearly impossible to spot. They are consummate leaf mimics when in repose.

Note the animal's gorgeous burnt-orange pelage, tinted hoary with frosted hair tips. A striking bat indeed. I don't have much experience photographing bats - after all, one doesn't often encounter them, or at least I don't. The relatively few opportunities that I have come across bats in photographable situations, I've found them to be challenging subjects. Bats are just very good at tucking up into an amorphous furry ball, and it can be hard to tell what they are sometimes.

The wrists of the wings are armed with long thumbs tipped with claws, and these, along with the bat's hind toe claws, allow it to effortlessly grip vertical substrates for long periods of time. And my, what big ears she/he has! Its echolocation gear is located in there and the large ears help to gather and concentrate audio feedback. Woe the the moth that gets locked onto a bat's sonar system.

Cute, or no? The former, in my opinion. Bats are without doubt one of our most interesting and valuable groups of mammals, and it was a great - and unexpected - treat to make the aquaintance of this fine looking red bat today. And Erin, Matt, and Paul - sorry for running late, but here's the culprit.


Unknown said...

Cute as hell!

KirstenJL said...

Last week, when it first started getting warm in Ohio, I saw several bats flying during the day. I saw two at Greenlawn Cemetery on 4/7 (one was dipping down and presumably drinking from the quarry pond), and one near New Straitsville on 4/10. Is this normal, or a sign of white-nose syndrome? None of the bats appeated ill.

zippiknits...sometimes said...

cute it is. On my grandfather's farm, in the barn, we had a little group of bats. Also in the meadow behind the railroad tracks there were frogs mating in the pools of water that stood a few weeks in rainy season. This was in Holmes county in the 40's.

Anonymous said...

I found my only Red Bat on a Christmas Bird Count. It was in a tree on the ridge overlooking the Little Miami, the county park (Hisey) near the Caesar Creek Gorge. When I first saw it, I thought it might be a Cecropia cocoon. After I got my binocs on it, I knew what it was and our group of 5 or 6 all got to see it. It was near some old oak leaf clusters, but luckily for me, far enough away on the branches that it stood out. If it was on one of those oak leaves, I would likely not have seen it.


Nancy Stranahan said...

305Extremely cute!! This has been the year of the red bats!! Did you see the Arc of Appalachia facebook video? Eight of them were seen at Miller Preserve and the Highlands Nature Sanctuary last weekend, all in beech trees. Amidst all the bad environmental news, esp on bats, here is a good news story. Love these guys.