So who knows anything about bats? What does it make you think of? Wings of the night, vampires and scary dark caves, well this is far from the truth.
It was around 4 in the afternoon when I was picked up to head off for a night of bat watching.
Doug Mills was the man in charge collecting data on bat numbers at a number of locations in the area, that night we were off to Bungonia National Park to look at a population of Eastern Bentwing Bats in a cave there.
Already in the car was a friend Simone and on the way we picked up a mate of Doug’s along for the ride. Stopping for pizza on the way and eating it at a picnic table in the national park I could definitely see myself being cut out for this line of work. After the pizza we headed off down to the cave just before sunset to set up camera equipment to get a few happy snaps of the bats as they headed off for a breakfast of scrumptious moths and other flying insects.
The cave itself was in a gully surrounded by the Australian bush deep and dark with a steep drop just inside the cave mouth down to where the bats slept. Settling down in the quiet of the bush with the sun setting it was a peaceful scene.
The bats came out a few at first in the dim light of dusk, the brave few daring the slight light, or maybe just the hungriest. Before long though there was a steady stream of them pouring out of the cave in there thousands. A population of around 25,000 was estimated in this cave and they sure were in a rush for dinner flooding out at around 30-40 bats per second at the peak. It was an amazing scene there in the dark hearing the flutter of hundred of wings at once and feeling the wind against your face as a bat would dart by and of course the occasional drop of what i could only hope was rain……. These bats due to their longer fore-wing were incredible fast and agile, the speed and mobility was incredible. As they started to slow down we headed back to the rangers hut for a brief nap before a 3am start to record numbers.
After barely having time to lay my head down on the pillow we were back up again and out by the cave setting up equipment and settling down to enjoy the show. Using an infra red camera and a piece of software originally designed to track missiles Mr Mills recorded what we could barely see and displayed it clear as day.
Then back to the car and back to Canberra, an incredible night over already, I couldn’t wait to go bat watching again.
Photos Courtesy of “Doug Mills. NSW Parks & Wildlife, Office of Environment and Heritage.”