It’s Friggin’ Bats

My last memory was hitting the bed in the cabin at around 5:00 a.m. in the morning. Sleep deprived, but alive. Exhausted from an almost 24 hour day. 

Nestled in the mountains of North Georgia is a wonderful retreat complete with modest, yet beautiful cabins. A stone fire tower from the 1930’s sits high on the peak just around the corner. This structure is surrounded by remnants of a nearly 1,000 foot long stone wall built by what Cherokee folklore reports as “moon-eyed people” thousands of years ago. These people were described as pale-skin, blue eyed and blond hair with beards and were supposedly susceptible to sunlight. This of course really set the mood for the following days.

Dozens of wildlife biologists, ecologists, professors, D.O.T. consultants, PHD students, park rangers, and bat enthusiasts like me from various areas of the U.S. and even a few from other countries came together to spend 3 nights in complete darkness to study local bat populations. It’s call a Bat Blitz and I have never been more excited to be out in the woods at night before.

Checking for wing damage in an Eastern Red Bat Wing (handled with the utmost care) Look at the cool grid pattern in the wing membrane!

Netting bats

We were split off in to a bunch of different teams and sent to various bat foraging sites all in the area. By the guidance of a team leader, an enormous net is set up at key spots at the site for capturing the sky puppies. Once the nets and processing station are set up, the sun goes down and then we wait! Checking the nets about every 10 mins, with our headlamps we check for any visible lumps in the net (those are bats!) And then a licensed and vaccinated handler well gently scoop up the little creature and plop in a brown paper sack to carry back to the processing station. 

At one moment one handler had three bags of bats waiting to be process! Our team was top score of most bats caught in a night. We netted 8 big brown bats and 4 eastern red bats.

The bats are handled with much care and systematically weighed, sexed, and checked for any damage to the wing membranes. They are also identified as either juvenile or adult and then usually the last thing to do is measure their forearms and then set free to flutter back into the night. (scroll down to the bottom of this email and check out the slow motion video I took of a Big Brown taking off after being processed)

Just before they took off, I was able to snap some photos of these sweet creatures. Also worth mentioning, I was hired to design the logo for this year’s event 🙂

SBDN (Southeastern Bat Diversity Network) Bat Blitz 2023 logo
“Unhand me, heathen!” Eastern Red Bat about to head back to the night. Look at that cute boop face!

I of course now have the itch and I am looking forward to the next Bat Blitz (and looking for others in the region). One of my favorite parts of the event was getting to know complete strangers from many walks of life who were all there together for one purpose. While traveling to and from the sites we all talked a bit about what got us into bats in the first place. Everyone had a different trajectory and “hook”. And though there were many differences, we could all come back to common ground. It’s friggin’ bats!

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