The best time to watch for bats in Hiouchi is just after the sun sets and as night descends. I’ve never seen a bat up close or even at rest, but I’ve seen dozens and dozens while staring into the near blackness of night. They flicker in and out of your field of vision and seem to fly and swoop within reach. Or so it seems. It’s unnerving to think of one of these fang-toothed creatures getting tangled in a hat or hair or smacking broadside into your head. For all the time I’ve been on the lookout for these critters, and they appear to follow you everywhere during summer nights, it’s never happened.
Thanks to West Texas Bad Group for the photo.
PhD student Alyson Brokow has a nice discussion of bats which make the redwood forest their home. Of all the common species found here, and there are about eight, the Big Brown Bat, the Yuma Myotis and the Little Brown Myotis are the most common. Most likey the bats you might see flying around the bnb are the Yuma and Little Brown as they are more prone to hunt near water.
The hunt, of course, is for insects. When they’re not feeding, of course, they are sleeping. One little known but sensitive issue in the redwood forest is a bat’s daytime habitat and how easy it is for the casual walker in the forest to disturb this habitat. The Save the Redwoods League has a discussion about this situation worth reading. It advices care when entering a hollowed out redwood tree, something we are all prone to do, for the fun of it or maybe to snap a photo. But be cautious about such exploits as it compromises the bats home and well-being.
According to a Save the Redwoods study, “Because bats are small, warm-blooded animals, relatively warm and predictable temperatures are essential for their survival and reproduction.” They often “roost by day in basal hollows created by repeated fires, deep bark furrows, and cavities and crevices of tree crowns.”
The discussion suggests hikers resist the urge to enter the large hollows of giant redwoods for fear of disturbing the bats’ daytime quarters. Just something to think about when you are out hiking in the forest.
The National Park Service has an excellent web page that discusses bats of the western states. Not all the bats listed are present here in the redwoods but many are. A cross reference with Brokow’s web page will give you a basic education on bats of the redwood forest. Good luck hunting.
As far as spotting bats at the bnb and on local hikes, all I can advise is to take some time when you are out at night. Let your eyes adjust to the darkness, and then just keep your eyes open without focusing on any one point. Relax your eyes and soon you’ll be seeing the unmistakable streak of a bat in flight.