By Kate McGowan

The Belle Bats successfully completed our second full day in the field! During our first two days, we prepped and sorted equipment, created game plans for data collection this summer, built two pretty awesome bird blinds, and spent two eventful days in the field! We are sweaty, dusty, and having a great time. Here are some things we have learned in our first couple days:

  • First, there’s no way to describe the magic of seeing your first bat emergence. Videos and words cannot do justice to how awe-inspiring it is to watch thousands of bats fly directly over your head from the cave, especially once the Swainson’s Hawks begin swooping in and out of the emerging swarms against the backdrop of a sunset sky. Truly nature at its finest.
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New Mexico Sunset
  • Self-teaching ourselves to manually focus and zoom on fast moving objects was challenging, but well worth the videos we are able to capture of hawk attacks on the emerging bats.
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Bird mascot “The Jester” taking field notes
  • Learning to grommet was much more exciting than expected, and we discovered one way to judge the quality of a song is by how successfully you can grommet to its down beat.
  • We do a lot more collecting and throwing rocks than anticipated: grabbing rocks for throwing at other rocks to check for rattlesnakes, moving sharp rocks out of the dust rock to avoid tire damage, collecting rocks to weigh down our bird blind, marking locations of equipment with piles of rocks, stabilizing the SM3 Acoustic microphone tripods with large rocks, etc. Lots of rocks in desert field work.
  • Whether you wanted to or not, you will develop new appreciation for Sweet Home Alabama (car ride theme song).
  • Jackrabbits appear to place little value upon their lives. This is demonstrated by how frequently they choose to run towards the car headlights rather than away from them.
  • Being inside bat cave is the closest thing to scuba diving on land that I have ever experienced. Like diving, you move through an alien land with limited visibility, focusing on keeping your breathing controlled through your respirator, looking through your mask in awe at the foreign scene around you. It’s truly a unique and bizarre environment. Some differences from diving, however, include that the cave is exceptionally hot and rather than a wet suit, we are clad in a Tyvek suit (feels like someone wrapped cling wrap around you in 100-degree heat). Also, the dunes in the cave are not composed of sand, but mounds and mounds of soft, dried guano. I was also surprised to observe that the bats are not spread throughout the cave, but cluster together in a large clump of thousands on the cave ceiling. I feel so fortunate to have such an incredible experience.
  • No matter how fast they may be trying to flee from you, all the quails I’ve seen still run in a single file line.
  • Verizon may actually be “America’s Most Reliable Network,” as only those with Verizon have signal on the ranch (I have AT&T). While I may occasionally miss sending a text or making a call to friends or family, having no service can be refreshing. We’ve spent time drinking coffee while looking at the mountains, getting in extra camera practice, reading, doing group yoga, having meals together, trying to figure out answers to weird questions ourselves rather than googling them, etc. Or if you are Kate and Lily, you may spend a great deal of your time having repeated conversations surrounding the plot of Infinity War or various Marvel theories (no spoilers).
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View from backyard
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Camera Practice with Lily
  • Lastly, bats will make you wait, but bats will wait for no one.

Looking forward to many more lessons and life skills! Today, we are headed into Truth or Consequences, where I’m really looking forward to trying the green chile cheeseburger that Morgan and Dr. K keep talking about. Bats forever.