Recently I read an article in the Time magazine which said that about 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats are estimated to have died since 2006 from white nose fungus, and this could spell disaster, not just for the animals, but for humans as well.
What is worrisome is the potential loss of a critical part of the ecosystem. A female bat of reproductive age can consume her weight in insects each night and that amounts to millions of pounds of insects each year. If the bats are wiped out, insect populations could explode, including pests that can decimate food and agriculture yields and infest forests too.
The tree next to our house is a great abode for the bats. Its peculiar in the sense that they start appearing when its dusk and there is a flurry of activity. I always wonder where they disappear during the day time as they are not seen “sleeping” on the same tree.
I tried to click some pictures, but as I had to rely on my flash it was a trial and error method . The pictures that you see here is the result of sifting through about 50 odd pictures. Most of them were either blurred or the bat was out of frame.
I think these are the Fruit Bats as I see them eating something from these trees. I think these are Megabats.
Microbats and Megabats are different in many ways. Megabats have large eyes and often dog-like faces; microbats have small eyes and often have elaborate facial structures.
Microbats use echolocation to detect their prey while megabats rely on smell and vision to find food. Megabats feed almost exclusively on fruit and flowers, while microbats have more varied tastes, eating insects, fruit, pollen, nectar, fish, frogs, other bats and blood.
That brings us to the topic of the “Vampire Bats”
The famous Dracula novel by Bram Stoker has given bats a poor press - here are some facts about vampire bats to give the full picture.
· Vampire bats don’t live in Transylvania; out of the 1,100 species there are only three species of the “vampire bats” and they all live in Central and
· Vampire bats rarely feed on human blood; they much prefer the blood of cattle, horses, pigs and birds.
· A vampire bat doesn’t actually ‘suck’ blood, it makes a graze on its host’s skin to encourage a flow of blood and then laps this up with its tongue.
· Vampire bats are small. The commonest is only 7cm to 9cm long and takes approximately a tablespoon of blood each night.
· They are caring towards members of their colony; apart from behaviour such as mutual grooming, they will even take care of others who are unable to feed by regurgitating the blood they have collected!
· Stroke victims may soon benefit from studies of a clot-dissolving substance in the vampires’ saliva.
There are more than 1,100 species of bats worldwide, making up around one-fifth of all mammals. New bat species are still being discovered but relatively little is known about many of these incredible animals. Few people realise what an essential part they play in the natural world.
Bats can be as large as a small dog or as small as a bee. The largest bats are the flying foxes with wingspans of up to 2 metres and a body weight of 1.5 kilograms. At the other end of the scale is the bumblebee bat, weighing only 2 grams – the world’s smallest mammal.
While clicking these pictures I observed some of their habits. They squabble and fight and when they do that they produce some sort of a shrieking sound. But what they actually mean must be “don’t come here, this is my territory”
The younger ones flit around faster (making it difficult to photograph them)
Notice the way their claws are designed making it very easy for them to hang on a branch.
One more thing that I noticed (accidentally)
I kept taking these pictures on a daily basis, and was waiting for a good shot of one of them with their limbs fully stretched coming in for the landing. After a gap of three days I was ready with my camera, but surprisingly not a single one appeared at dusk. It cannot be that they decided to boycott the paparazzi. It could be that the flowers on this tree has stopped emitting the fragrance and they must have moved over to better pastures.
Funny that we never notice such minor things though it happens right under our nose.
Every time I write a new post I find myself enlightened a little bit about nature.
And talking about flowers blooming, and emitting fragrance, our Vanilla creeper is flowering again, which means I will have to again do the artificial pollination like I did last year.