Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why I own a bat detector.

My son loves to read, especially about animals. Last night he was reading a book about bats, one of those slender children’s nature books heavy on pictures. The window was open and it was twilight. “You want to see a bat?” I asked. He was engrossed, didn’t answer. I tugged on the book. “Do you want to see some bats?”


“Let’s see some real bats.”

“Okay...” he said, as if it were a dubious suggestion. I turned out the room light and switched off the computer monitors. The window was open because of the heat. I placed one of my most prized possessions on the window sill – my bat detector.

Bat detector? Well, strictly speaking it’s an ultrasound detector, but I bought it from Bat Conservation International, so it’s obviously meant to detect bats. It’s about the size of a hand-held GPS, which is why once, during a hastily organized trip up the valley and lost on some logging road, when I was asked to check where we were on my GPS , I reached into my pack and said, “Oh. I’m not sure I can do that. But at least we’ll know if there are any bats.”

GPS and bat detector. Both very useful, but hardly interchangeable.

The bat detector was on the window sill for no more than 20 seconds before the quiet static suddenly went, “tic tic tic ticticticticTICTICTICTICTICTIC!” We looked out, over the neighbour’s roofline. A bat skittered across the sky. More static, then again, “tic tic tic ticticticticTICTICTICTICTICTIC!” A bat seemed to fly right at our open window, then, as if yanked by a string, shot up over our heads, above our house.

We took the bat detector outside, into the back yard. “tic tic tic ticticticticTICTICTICTICTICTIC!” Strafed by one more, a few feet above our Japanese maple.

And then, nothing but quiet static. We waited a few minutes. I saw that my son was still holding his bat book, and had started reading again, straining his eyes in the thin light leaking through the downstairs blinds.

“You want to go inside and finish your book?”

“Okay,” he said. He enjoyed seeing the bats, but he really loves to read.


Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

We've got to get us one of those. What a cool experience.

Laura said...

Neat! I know we have some flyers outside our house. Ive been thinking of addding a bat house. Maybe Ill get the detector first!

Sheila said...

How cool! I want one!

I likE plants! said...

Awesome! I know we have them here but I don't think I've ever seen one.

footnote: be glad your son likes to read! most kids don't know what the word means!!!


pookie said...

Seven years ago, I hired a local bat enthusiast in Rochester, NY to research and build me a bat house large enough for a breeding colony of brown bats. I enjoyed watching the few that fluttered around our marshy backyard. He consulted the BCI literature and constructed a mondo-impressive looking bat house that he attached high up on the south side of our 2-story home. Nary a bat did we spot anywhere near the bat house for 5 years, when we sold the house. I drove by the old place yesterday, and the only pang of regret I felt at seeing the home I had lived in for 17 years was that the bat house was a complete flop. The new owner still left it up there, though.

Hugh said...

I looked up the price of bat detectors on the Bat Conservation International website. I was astounded to see the model I have is priced at $500 US, and is no longer available to non-US customers. I'm pretty I sure I didn't pay that much, which at the time would have been significantly more than that in $CDN. There must be a cheaper source.

Pookie! So good to hear from you. About your bathouse--they tend to be hit and miss, even when placed in the "right" spot. It can take years for bats to find them; they tend to be very faithful to historical sites. But once they find it, they should keep coming back. (Maybe it is inhabited after all this time.)

I LikE Plants, you probably have plenty of bats in your area, all year round. Good luck finding them (watch around street lights at night).

swamp4me said...

Don't be surprised if your son turns to you one day, say in his early twenties, and says to you, "You remember that time we were reading in my room and then we went out and listened to bats with that thing you had? That was pretty cool." Trust me, I speak from personal experience :)