Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Bats and birdies

As I’ve said all along, we are making good progress with the birds but the mammals are driving us batty.  In particular, bats have been elusive.  We did see an unidentified bat at Point Pelee and also found a dead Little Brown Bat there but came up empty on a couple of good leads – no Long-eared Bats at a long established and well known roost in Hesketh, AB and an empty “bat” cave in NS. 

Ray has a bluebird trail and asked other bluebird monitors if they had seen any mammals.  Zoltan Gulyas, a long-time “bluebirder” responded that some bat boxes (which he had built) on his bluebird trail were occupied and he would be willing to take us there to look for bats.
Saturday, July 21

Saturday evening, Ray and I picked up Zoltan and drove to a ranch north of Cochrane.  Zoltan had warned us to bring bug spray and he was right … the mosquitoes were ferocious!.  The bat boxes were attached to the east side of a wooden Quonset hut, about 4 metres above ground level.  The boxes that Zoltan had built were works of art as well as being very functional.  Each box was about .4 metres by .9 metres and could house up to 50 bats.
Zoltan standing below the bat boxes he constructed
Upon arrival, we peered up the bat boxes and could see a couple of bats but certainly not 50.  We were there shortly before sunset so we settled in to wait for darkness and the departure of the bats.  After about 15 minutes, we noticed that a single bat was hanging on the wall just below the right-hand window (can you see it in the picture above?).
Little Brown Bat
We are assuming that these are Little Brown Bats (or Little Brown Myotis) but will send the photos to a local bat expert for confirmation.

At about 10:05 pm, we started to see bats leaving the boxes.  They were very fast and difficult to see in the fading light let alone to take a photo.  Over the next 20 minutes, Zoltan counted 44 bats and we could still hear some in the bat boxes when we left.  Meanwhile, I wasn’t having much success at getting an action photo – closest I came was getting a bat just as it is leaving the box.
Bat leaving its roost
Ray and I quite enjoyed the evening and Zoltan’s explanation of bat boxes, coyote behaviour and just about everything a person could want to know … thanks Zoltan and thanks also to the landowner.

Despite all the excitement, we are still at 61 mammals as the addition of Little Brown Bat to our list means that we have to drop the “bat species” that we saw in Point Pelee (even though the unidentified bat was too big for a Little Brown Bat).  Bird listers will understand the logic which is otherwise too complicated to explain here.

Monday, July 23
Today was the first round of the 6th annual BIRD tournament – BIRD is the acronym for “Birders Invitational for Retired Duffers".  Each year, Ray, Phil and I along with our spouses play a round of golf at 3 different courses.  We have a special scoring system that rewards birdies and also takes into account our individual handicaps.  The prize for the winner is the Birders Cup.
Ray, Brian and Phil - all smiles before the round ... who was smiling after the round?
Today’s round was at Phil’s course – Priddis Greens, southwest of Calgary.  The weather forecast was for a chance of showers and possible thunderstorms but we were undaunted.  Phil, the best golfer of the three of us, started off with a birdie and quickly cut into the strokes that he had spotted Ray and me.  After three holes, the heavens opened and the rain poured down on us.  It stopped after a few minutes and we had sunny weather for the rest of the round.  We each had a few good shots but, at the end of the round, I had the biggest smile :)

Although we were golfing, we did not neglect the birds and mammals – we recorded 21 species of birds and 3 species of mammals.  Next up for the team is another crack at Northern Flying Squirrel and Dusky Grouse.

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