Written by Steph Dreessen:

Coming to the end of our stay at our first cave location, it’s crazy how many experiences I have had. First of all, driving farther west than Chicago, Illinois, only to set out tomorrow morning towards Oklahoma, tasting my first bison burger, seeing my first armadillo, rattlesnake (dead), porcupine, road runner, prairie dogs, jack rabbit, Townsend bat, Big Brown bat, Mexican free-tailed bat, and of course, viewing an emergence of bats for the first time as well.

Dead Rattlesnake! You can see its rattle near the bottom of the picture…I chose not to get close to it’s head even though it was clearly dead.

Not only was I able to go in the bat cave in Kansas to see the layout of the cave, but I also was able to experience being inside the cave during emergence! The first time I went into the cave, it was awesome, but being inside the cave during the emergence tops that experience. Dr. Kloepper and I went into the cave with the FLIR thermal camera to take videos of the bats as they emerge. While she operated the camera, I carried the computer, the computer case, and tried to keep the cords organized while we walked.

We took videos in different parts of the cave, and each video captured how the bats fly around objects (mostly rocks) in the cave. The best description of the bats’ flight inside of the cave would be in the words of Dr. Kloepper as the freeway effect. By this, we mean that the bats seem to fly in directions particular to which side they are flying in, similar to vehicles driving on the lanes on a freeway.

For one video, Dr. Kloepper lost her balance while we were crouching to stay out of the way of the bats and she fell right into the guano! Guano looks a lot like miniature mice pellets, and if it builds up over time it turns into a fine powdery substance. So when Dr. Kloepper took a tumble, she stirred up a lot of “dusty manure” (grossed me out a little bit).

In this particular cave, there are some holes next to the walking path that we have decided to make. I love to read Stephen King novels, and as of right now I’m reading his book “It.” Not the smartest decision I have made, considering that most of the time we’re collecting data is at sunset or after, perfect timing for horror-story writers to set an eerie tone. While I was in the cave, I also wanted to experience total darkness, so I turned my headlamp off and stood there a whole 4 seconds. My psyche couldn’t take it, or my eyes would’ve started seeing things that weren’t really there. I also was standing next to a hole about 10 feet deep, so I really was expecting something to pop out at us while we were taking video.

Nevertheless, the experience of taking thermal videos with the FLIR camera was something that I’m glad I got to experience (while taking a selfie in the process), and see first hand how their flight patterns in the cave are organized. With each cave I’m sure that these patterns may change, and I look forward to possibly seeing this first hand again!