Saturday, June 20, 2009

More Bats

Last night was Night #2 for the DEC Bat Survey for which I am volunteering (see "Help the Bats" post on 9 April). My fellow volunteers and I have been very pleasantly surprised that we have been picking up bats with the detector/computer set-up.

Our first night (Wednesday) we drove from Goodnow Flow down Route 28N and around the research loop at Huntington Forest, an almost 22 mile route (at 18 mph). Most of the hits we got were under the street lights along 28N (no surprise there).

Last night we started up in Tahawus at the Upper Works (known by hikers as the southern entrance to the High Peaks Wilderness Area). This was an easier route to drive because it is blessedly paved! So down the Tahawus Road we went, hanging a left onto the Blue Ridge Road, completing an 18 mile route. Again, we had several hits, mostly near bodies of water, which is where we expected to find them.

The data we (and other volunteers) collect will be reviewed by DEC, the sonograms examined to determine how many bats were located and what species. While I am no expert, I do have a tape I acquired a few years back of bat calls, and I suspect we encountered at least three, maybe four species between the two nights. Without having that tape handy to compare the recordings to what we are hearing, I can't tell you which species; we'll have to leave that to the DEC folks.

New York is home to nine species of bats: Little Browns, Big Browns, Indiana Bats, Red Bats, Hoary Bats, Silver-haired Bats, Small-footed Bats, Eastern Long-earred Bats(or Keene's Myotis), and Eastern Pipistrelles. Three of these (Reds, Hoarys, and Silver-haired) are solitary tree dwellers that migrate south for the winter. So far, as far as we know, they have not been affected by White-nose Syndrome (WNS).

Of the remaining species, the Indiana Bat is already classified as a Federally Endangered Species, and the Adirondacks host the fourth largest winter colony of this species. As you can imagine, there is great concern about this species and the impact of WNS upon it. Mortality surveys, however, indicate that Little Browns have been impacted the most. Little Browns are historically a very common species, but as WNS progresses, we may witness the fastest transition from common to extinct this planet has seen.

We plan to do a second survey on each of these Newcomb routes, just to gather as much data as possible. I am also scheduled to do a run down in Indian Lake, which I will be scoping out this weekend. All we need are a few more clear nights.

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