Friday, August 15, 2014

Creatures of the Night

     The Red Hills harbor many kinds of  animals.  Bats are among the most fascinating.  Over a half dozen of Kansas's 16 species can be found in or near some of the gypsum caves in these parts.  As far as size of colonies, no species equals that of the Brazilian Free-tailed Bat.  In one cave (featured here), upwards of a million of these bats call it their home.  The Brazilian Free-tailed females migrate here every year to give birth to their young.  Every dusk roughly from May to September, they fly out of the cave, chasing flying beetles, moths and other insects on wing.  They are a valuable asset to humans and an integral part of the Red Hills ecosystem; bats are also fascinating to watch.  Many can be seen away from their roosts, feeding above small streams and ponds and many times around light sources.  There are many misconceptions about bats.  To learn factual information about these interesting flying mammals, google Bat Conservation International.  To obtain an excellent booklet called "Bats of Kansas" by Sparks, Schmidt and Choate, check with Sternberg Museum of Hays, Kansas or the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita.

With a wing-spread of up to 10 inches, the Brazilian Free-tailed Bat is a large and nimble flying machine.
Staging in the cave before exiting, these bats use their echolocation (sonar) to help prevent collisions with other things and to locate food on the wing outside.

Thousands of bats circle, waiting for more darkness to exit for long feeding excursions.

Mariam and Andrew came all the way from Manhattan, New York to get some video of these flying mammals.
Brazilian Free-tailed Bats exited this cave for over an hour.  

Happy videographers!

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